New Census Data Shows Safety Net Programs Keep Millions Out Of Poverty

Our guest blogger is Desmond Brown, a consultant for the Half in Ten campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The U.S. Census Bureau today released new data that provided a more detailed picture of poverty and hardship in the United States. For the first time, the Bureau released 2010 poverty statistics under a new Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM).

The SPM includes a more comprehensive list of items in determining the number of Americans who are poor. It reflects items such as work related expenses, out of pocket medical costs, and child care expenses. At the same time, the SPM factors in tax and transfer programs such as SNAP/food stamps, the earned income tax credit, and housing subsidizes in determining those who are poor.

As a result of this more detailed analysis, the SPM offers a slightly different picture of poverty than the official poverty measure, which was released earlier this year for 2010. Overall, the SPM presented a higher rate of poverty than the official measure, showing 16 percent of Americans living in poverty, as opposed to 15.2 percent.


One of the major improvements of this new analysis is that it provides a better picture of the impact of government programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and school lunch. These safety net programs were tremendously effective in 2010 in keeping vulnerable Americans out of poverty. Below is an illustration if their impact: