May 6

Past Event

Evaluating the New Supplemental Poverty Rate Proposal

Event Materials



  • Alternative Lens on Poverty

    Rebecca Blank, U.S. Department of Commerce: The supplemental poverty measures are not intended to replace current guidelines. Instead, they will provide an alternative lens for viewing who is living in poverty.

    Ron Haskins and Rebecca M. Blank

  • Better Measure of Inequality

    Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation: Being poor can mean different things to different people; the new poverty guidelines are a better measure of inequality than poverty.

    Ron Haskins and Rebecca M. Blank

  • Broaden Poverty's Definition

    Shawn Fremstad, Ctr. for Economic and Policy Research: We need to broaden the definition of poverty. We can''t presume that poverty can be eradicated by changing how we measure it.

    Ron Haskins and Rebecca M. Blank

  • New Poverty Measures a Major Step Forward

    Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin: The new poverty measures are an important and major step forward in defining who is living in poverty in the U.S.

    Ron Haskins and Rebecca M. Blank


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The U.S. Census Bureau recently announced that it will develop a new supplemental poverty measure, based in part on a well-known 1995 report from the National Academy of Sciences. The current poverty measure has been strongly criticized by experts from all points on the political spectrum because it ignores billions of dollars in family income, including government benefits that are specifically designed to help low-income families. Critics also point out that the country is using a poverty threshold that does not reflect the increase in basic living standards over time.

On May 6, the Center on Children and Families at Brookings, in cooperation with the U.S. Census Bureau and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, held an event to discuss the new supplemental measure and its implications for families and policymakers. Rebecca Blank, undersecretary of Commerce for economic affairs, gave the opening remarks and David Johnson of the Census Bureau provided an overview of the Bureau’s evolving work on the new measure. A panel of experts offered their analysis of the supplemental measure and the approach being taken by the Bureau.

After the presentations, speakers and panelists took questions from the audience.

Event Agenda

  • Welcome and Introductions

  • Opening Comments

    • Rebecca Blank

      Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs

      U.S. Department of Commerce

  • Overview

    • David Johnson

      Chief, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division

      U.S. Census Bureau

  • Panel

    • Economic Studies, Co-Director, Center on Children and Families" itemprop="jobTitle" /> Moderator: <a href="">Ron Haskins</a>

      Senior Fellow, Economic Studies

      Co-Director, Center on Children and Families

    • Rebecca Blank

      Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs

      U.S. Department of Commerce

    • Shawn Fremstad

      Director, Inclusive and Sustainable Economy Initiative

      Center for Economic and Policy Research

    • Mark Levitan

      Director of Poverty Research, New York City Center for Economic Opportunity

    • Robert Michael

      Professor and Dean Emeritus, University of Chicago

    • Robert Rector

      Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation

    • Timothy Smeeding

      Director, Institute for Research on Poverty

      University of Wisconsin


May 6, 2010

9:00 AM - 11:30 AM EDT

The Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105