Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) today reintroduced the Poverty Measurement Improvement Act, a bill that would improve the accuracy of poverty measurement in the United States by requiring the Census Bureau to supplement its existing poverty data with additional data from other federal agencies.
“To help the vulnerable in our social safety net programs, we must make sure that our limited resources are being used as effectively as possible, and going towards those who are most in need,” Sen. Lee said. “This bill will help us ensure that we have the data to do just that.”
For decades, the Census Bureau’s official poverty rate (OPR) has been the central point of reference for estimating the number of Americans living in poverty, and for guiding policymakers in evaluating and reforming welfare programs. However, its methods and metrics have made it a fundamentally inaccurate survey, as it fails to capture all the income and benefits that low-income Americans receive. In its current form, the survey’s participants dramatically underreport both income and receipt of funds – artificially inflating the poverty rate, and undermining the ability of the government to accurately assess and reform the welfare programs.
The bill would require the Census Bureau Director to produce a new, more accurate and comprehensive measure of poverty alongside the current official poverty rate and Supplemental Poverty Measure, and to provide a report comparing the measures.