To better understand poverty and find the best strategies to reduce it, states and localities need to know who is poor, why they are poor, and what policies work best for different groups. Rather than rely on the official poverty measure, in use since the early 1960s, several states and localities have taken the lead in developing new measures of poverty that more accurately account for the resources available to their residents as well as their needs. Supported by a strong body of innovative research from the federal government and public policy research organizations, these new measures not only more accurately gauge the level of poverty but offer a cost-effective way to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs. Improved poverty measurement also helps policymakers identify effective new programs to assist vulnerable populations in meeting their families’ often-pressing needs.
This brief provides an up-to-date look at how pioneering states and localities are using – or plan to use – improved poverty measurement to build smarter social policy. In a difficult fiscal climate, investing in better measures to estimate poverty and evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs is sound practice that will enable policymakers to quantify whether and how interventions are improving outcomes for children and their families. (author abstract)