Supplemental Poverty Measure

From Faster Than 20

Google Spreadsheet of the 2017 Supplemental Poverty Measure.

The U.S. Census Bureau began publishing the Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011 as an experimental improvement on the official measure, which was developed by Mollie Orshansky in 1963.[1] It tries to correct a few flaws with the official measure:

  • Expands the definition of family
  • Adjusts for taxes and other expenses (e.g. food, clothing, shelter, utilities)
  • Adjusts for regional costs of living
  • Takes into account government benefits, including non-cash (e.g. tax credits, school lunch, etc.)

Some people have suggested that the SPM is a relative measure of poverty as opposed to an absolute measure, because people's expenses for necessities rise proportionally to their income. If this were true, then it would make the SPM more a measure of inequality than of poverty. Some studies suggest that this is not quite true.

See Also


  1. "Measuring America: How the U.S. Census Bureau Measures Poverty."