The SPM was created in 2011 the by U.S. Census Bureau to provide a more detailed look at how children and families are faring than the official poverty rate allows. The SPM differs from the official poverty measure in a number of important ways:
- The SPM provides a more accurate reflection of economic hardship by using updated data on what it takes to meet basic needs in each state;
- The SPM calculates expenses by geographic location, recognizing cost-of-living differences across the states;
- The SPM calculates income from all sources (earned income, cash assistance), as well as from non-cash benefits (food assistance), providing a more accurate reflection of family resources. It also shows how taxes and tax credits affect income.
Given the overwhelming evidence documenting the strong relationship between economic security and all other areas of well-being, progress in all of these areas can be accelerated if we meaningfully tackle systemic poverty.
This new data comes at an opportune time, as policymakers begin to put pen to paper in writing the state budget. Washington state can build on the success of social programs and further reduce poverty by making targeted investments in programs we know work well for children and families, including:
- Fully funding the Working Families Tax Rebate, Washington state’s yet-to-be-funded version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which, according to the SPM, is the most effective anti-poverty tool we have for kids and families;
- Restoring the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash grant to support families in meeting basic needs while parents look for adequate and stable employment;
- Passing the Early Start Act so all kids have access to affordable, high-quality early learning opportunities while their parents work or look for a job; and
- Restoring full funding to the State Food Assistance Program so that all families can have access to nutritious food.
For more information about the Supplemental Poverty Measure and the impact of the social programs on child poverty nationwide, take a look at Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States.