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Past Event

Time to change how we measure poverty? Evaluating alternate poverty measures

Co-hosted by the Future of the Middle Class Initiative at Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute

Past Event

The official poverty rate is one of the most closely tracked government statistics used to evaluate progress in improving the circumstances of disadvantaged Americans. However, the measure suffers from widely recognized flaws, and more than 25 years have passed since the last major effort to recommend improvements. A two-year federal government effort to advance the next generation of poverty measurement recently concluded and published its final consensus report in January 2021. The technical working group’s final report recommends that the federal government produce an income poverty measure blending administrative and survey data and a consumption poverty measure. These new poverty measures would not replace existing poverty measures, including the Official Poverty Measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure, but would be in addition to them. The report recommends that the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics begin work to develop and produce these poverty measures immediately.

On June 9, in an event co-hosted by the Brookings Institution’s Future of the Middle Class Initiative and the American Enterprise Institute, leading experts on poverty measurement discussed the report and its recommendations. Bruce Meyer, University of Chicago professor and co-chair of the technical working group, presented the report’s findings and recommendations. Three discussants provided overall remarks on the report, and a roundtable of leading poverty experts then discussed various elements of the report and specific recommendations.

Viewers submitted questions for speakers by emailing or via Twitter using #PovertyMeasures.


Welcome and introduction

Report presentation

Bruce D. Meyer

McCormick Foundation Professor - University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy

Visiting Scholar - American Enterprise Institute

Discussants respond to report

Rebecca M. Blank

Chancellor - University of Wisconsin-Madison

Former Brookings Expert

Expert roundtable

Marianne Bitler, University of California at Davis
Rich Burkhauser,
Cornell University
Janet Currie,
Princeton University
David Johnson, University of Michigan
Jeff Larrimore, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Robert Rector, The Heritage Foundation
James X. Sullivan, University of Notre Dame
Chris Wimer, Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University

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