Alternative Poverty Measures and the Geographic Distribution of Poverty in the United States

James P. Ziliak, University of Kentucky

Measuring the poverty status of individuals and families is in the policy spotlight on both the national and local levels in the United States. The purpose of this paper is to identify the extent to which a re-ranking of states and regions in terms of poverty status occurs under alternative poverty measures, both in the aggregate and by major demographic groups such as children and the elderly. The primary data for our analysis draws from the 2000-2009 Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey, supplemented by data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We find that poverty based on the NAS-type measures are higher compared to official rates, but that alternative measures leave poverty rankings across the four Census regions and the 50 states largely unchanged. In addition, state rankings for child, adult, and senior poverty are fairly robust across the seven NAS-type measures we consider.

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Presented in Session 1: The New Demography of Poverty: Federal, Regional, State, and Local Differences