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How to Improve Poverty Measurement in the United States

November 2007

Rebecca Blank.

Download 'working_paper07-30.pdf'.


This paper was prepared as the Presidential Address to the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management at their annual conference, November 8-10, 2007. Thanks are due to Victoria Finkle for excellent research assistance. The following individuals provided comments or useful conversations, but bear no responsibility for the analysis in this paper: Richard Bavier, Doug Besharov, Paul Bugg, Connie Citro, Sheldon Danziger, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Mark Greenberg, David Johnson, Patricia Ruggles, Kathleen Short, Katherine Wallman, and Daniel Weinberg.

Disclaimer: I was a senior staff economist at the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) in 1990 and led an interagency discussion on the value of making improvements to the poverty line as part of the Improving Economic Statistics initiative; I served on the National Academy of Science’s Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance and signed the resulting set of NAS recommendations; I was a Member of the CEA in 1997-98 when poverty measurement changes were discussed within the Clinton Administration; I attended many of the discussions of the seminar “Reconsidering the Federal Poverty Measure,” organized by Doug Besharov at AEI in 2003-2004. Depending on your point of view, this extensive political and research involvement with poverty measurement either makes me highly informed or hopelessly biased as the author of this paper.

International and Cross National Comparisons of Poverty and Inequality, Poverty Trends and Measurement