The Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison conducted a webinar to enhance poverty measurement in the United States. The panel of experts proposed elevating the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) to become the Principal Poverty Measure (PPM), which would include health insurance and child care as essential needs in addition to traditional categories. Led by a panel of distinguished experts, including Dr. Indivar “Indi” Dutta-Gupta (The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Dr. James Zilliak (Department of Economics and Center For Poverty Research, University of Kentucky), Dr. Barbara Wolf (Departments of Economics, Public Affairs, and Population Health Sciences, University of Wisconsin–Madison), Dr. Jane Walpocal Dr. Jane Walpocal (School of Social Work, Columbia University), and Dr. Ingrid Gould Ellen (Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, New York University), the webinar focused on presenting their findings and recommendations regarding the update of the poverty measurement methodology. The primary areas of emphasis were the costs associated with childcare and health care, as well as the disparities in housing expenses across different regions.

The panel recommended a health-inclusive poverty measure, incorporating health insurance in both the needs threshold and resources, utilizing the ACA Benchmark plan for individuals under 65 and the full cost of a Medicare Advantage plan for those over 65. They also proposed an incremental approach to address childcare measurement and recommended including a basic childcare need in the threshold. For housing costs, the panel emphasized the importance of considering local variations and suggested establishing three housing thresholds based on shelter costs for renters in different areas. They acknowledged the implicit rental value of homeowners’ homes and proposed adjustments to provide a more accurate assessment of available resources. Throughout the webinar, the panel stressed the need for ongoing research and collaboration to refine poverty measurement methods and inform policy decisions. The Census Bureau will consider and implement the recommendations, reflecting a commitment to continually improve poverty measurement.

By Asia Leach, Policy Intern