For more than a decade, the Census Bureau has been developing an alternative measure of poverty that is intended to better reflect the costs of basic living expenses as well as the resources people have to pay them. The bureau has just released results for 2010 from the alternative metric-called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM)—that uses a wider range of factors than the official federal measure to determine poverty status.
The additional data used in the alternative measure include medical expenses, tax credits, non-cash government benefits (such as food stamps, housing subsidies and school lunch programs), and cost-of-living adjustments for different areas. The alternative measure is not intended to replace the official poverty measure, at least for now. For the foreseeable future, the Census Bureau will report two sets of numbers.
When the alternative measure is used, a greater share of Hispanics in 2010 lived in poverty than any other group. By contrast, when using the official poverty rate, a greater share of blacks in 2010 lived in poverty than Hispanics or any other group. Even so, no matter which measure is used, Hispanics make up nearly three-in-ten of the nation’s poor-28.6% under the official poverty measure and 28.7% under the SPM.
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