Census report says 695,000 in Colorado are in poverty

Using a recently developed measurement of poverty, the Census Bureau estimates that Colorado had 695,000 individuals living in poverty in 2012.

That number is based on the bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which is more comprehensive than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the government's official measure of poverty. The formula for the FPL was developed in the early 1960s and has seen few changes since then.

Under the FPL measurement, Colorado had 638,000 living in poverty in 2012.

The Census Bureau recently released its third Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report.

The SPM includes a wider array of expenses and supports in its calculation of resources than does the FPL. The SPM is tied to a moving average of expenditures on food, clothing, shelter and utilities.

The report, which includes state-by-state information, puts the number of poor people in the United States at 49.4 million last year. This indicates that the SPM deemed almost 2.6 million more Americans as living in poverty. The FPL measure, which recorded 46.8 million living in poverty, basically uses the cost of food multiplied by three to measure poverty.

The SPM report shows that government programs appear to have lessened the impact on poverty, particularly on children and the elderly. Earned-income tax credits, Social Security payments and child-support credits and related benefits have helped the very poor, the young and the old. Based on the FPL, there are 16.5 million children under 18 living in poverty, for a poverty rate of 22.3 percent. Because many government anti-poverty programs target children, using the SPM results in a lower rate of 18.1 percent, a difference of more than 3 million people.

Among seniors, however, SPM recorded a poverty rate of 15.1 percent, far higher than the rate of 8.7 percent using FPL. The difference may be out-of-pocket medical expenses, which aren't accounted for in the official rate but push nearly 3 million seniors into poverty based on the SPM.

– George Awuor

 


Article posted on December 3, 2013