November 2012
Report Number: P60-244
Kathleen Short


Last year the U.S. Census Bureau, with support from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), released the first report describing research on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM extends the information provided by the official poverty measure by including many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals that are not included in the current official poverty measure. The current official poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and only a few minor changes have been implemented since it was first adopted in 1969 (Orshansky, 1963, 1965a, 1965b; Fisher, 1992). The official measure consists of a set of thresholds for families of different sizes and compositions that are compared to before-tax cash income to determine a family’s poverty status. At the time they were developed, the official poverty thresholds represented the cost of a minimum diet multiplied by three (to allow for expenditures on other goods and services).