A Better Measure of Efforts to Reduce Childhood Poverty in Iowa

February 26, 2015 – John Michaelson, Public News Service (IA)

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PHOTO: A new report calls for a stronger focus on a new ways to measure poverty and evaluate the programs aimed at helping families in financial turmoil. Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new report calls for a stronger focus on a new ways to measure poverty and evaluate the programs aimed at helping families in financial turmoil. Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema/Flickr.

DES MOINES, Iowa – Child poverty in the U.S. has been measured in the same way for deca des, but a new report shows there may be better indicators of child well-being and the programs that aim to help kids from lower-income families.

Mike Crawford, director with Iowa Kids Count, says one key problem with the way poverty has been calculated by the government for a half-century is it doesn’t take into account the impact of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, or food stamps and housing assistance.

“They don’t give you cash, but they do help families move out of poverty but they aren’t tracked by the official poverty measure,” Crawford says. “So, the government also has in place a Supplemental Poverty Measure, which really isn’t to replace the official, but to work with it and show the different ways of how these programs work.”

Crawford says the Supplemental Poverty Measure was created by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011 and also adjusts for geographic variations in the cost of living for families by state.

According to the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, called ‘Measuring Access to Opportunity in the United States,’ these government interventions drop the child-poverty rate nationwide from 33 percent to 18 percent. Crawford says locally…

“In Iowa, I think it’s gone down from 22 percent of eight percent,” he says. “If you look at all the other states our eight-percent is the lowest poverty rate in the country.”

The report says Iowa is tied for lowest in the U.S., with the rate in Wyoming also eight percent. Crawford says this more accurate measurement of poverty needs to be further developed, to better evaluate the effectiveness of social programs and policies to help all children achieve their full potential.

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