By: Christopher Wimer
This research brief examines child poverty in 2010 using both the official poverty measure that the Census Bureau has been using since the 1960’s and the more recent Research Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). It examines three groups of children – the “core” poor who live in families who are poor regardless of which measure is used, the “lifted out” children who are classified as poor under the official measure but are no longer poor under the supplemental poverty measure, and children who are not poor under the official measure but who are “thrown in” to poverty under the new SPM measure. The brief identifies the core characteristics of each group of poor children and demonstrates what each measure independently contributes to our understanding of child poverty.
The Census Bureau’s new Research Supplemental Poverty Measure provides an opportunity to reexamine child poverty by looking at three groups of children: (a) the “core poor,” those who live in families who are poor no matter which measure is considered; (b) the “lifted out,” those who are classified as poor under the official measure but as no longer poor under the supplemental measure; and (c) the “thrown in,” those who are newly classified as poor under the supplemental measure.
- The “core poor,” the largest of the three groups (11.2 million children in 2010), are the most highly disadvantaged of the three groups. They live in families that are less likely to be engaged with the labor market and have lower earnings, which puts them far below the poverty threshold. They have moderate access to the social safety net, which often keeps them out of “deep poverty,” but not enough to bring their families’ incomes above either the official or supplemental poverty threshold.
- The “lifted out” group (5.6 million children in 2010 ) lives in families with more attachment to the labor market and more earnings, and they have families with income that is much closer to the official poverty threshold. Their families combine this income with more safety net benefits, which together raise their families’ incomes above the supplemental poverty threshold.
- The “thrown in” group (2.4 million children in 2010) lives in families characterized by high levels of necessary expenses, in particular medical out-of-pocket expenses. Most are in families with incomes just above the poverty threshold, their families’ high expenses and low attachment to the safety net result in these children falling below the poverty threshold under the new measure.