Oct 21 2014 |
Author: Christen |
While many food bankers and advocates may be familiar with the federal poverty guidelines, you may be less familiar with the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), a newer, more accurate way of assessing poverty.
Since 2009, the Census has calculated the SPM, which improves upon the official poverty measure by including income and expenses that aren’t considered in the official poverty level calculation. First, it includes the value of government programs such as CalFresh (food stamps), Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Second, it also accounts for regional variations in the cost of living. So while it’s not perfect, it’s seen as more accurate than the official measure that uses a formula dating back more than 50 years.
So, what does the SPM tell us about California?
Using the SPM, California had a poverty rate of 23.4%, the highest in the nation. This is an increase of more than 7 percentage points from the official rate of 16%! By this calculation, nearly 9 million Californians are living in poverty. When it comes to cost of living, the national threshold to calculate the poverty level for a family of 4 is $23,624.
However, in many areas of California cost of living can run as high as $35,000, the highest in the country.
We are pleased that this measure is able to give us a more complete picture of the economic conditions of low-income Californians, because we all know that food bank demand has not fallen significantly since the recession and too many people are still not fully employed, if at all.
At the same time, we recognize that just like the U.S. Census, the SPM is still only a snapshot. Many benefits—like child support—that the SPM takes for granted are in reality often not a reliable source of income. While not perfect, the SPM still provides a clearer picture of California’s “real poverty rate.” You can help us get the word out through your own social media channels. We've included some sample posts you can use below.
For more information about the SPM, please read the link below:
Sample Social Media Posts
"California’s real poverty rate? Try 23.5%, not 16% #talkpoverty" Tweet this >>
"Nationally SNAP raises 4.8 million people out of poverty #talkpoverty #snap4SNAP" Tweet this >>
"Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure California had a poverty rate of 23.4%, an increase of more than 7 percentage points from the official rate of 16%! By this calculation, nearly 9 million Californians are living in poverty. When it comes to cost of living, the national threshold to calculate the poverty level for a family of 4 is $23,624, while in many areas of California it’s as high as $35,000, the highest in the country!