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The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2019

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Report Number P60-272


Since the publication of the first official U.S. poverty estimates, researchers and policymakers have continued to discuss the best approach to measure income and poverty in the United States. Beginning in 2011, the U.S. Census Bureau began publishing the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which extends the official poverty measure by taking account of many of the government programs designed to assist low-income families and individuals that are not included in the official poverty measure. The SPM is produced with the support of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and this is the tenth in the series. This report presents estimates of the prevalence of poverty in the United States using the official measure and the SPM based on information collected in 2020 and earlier Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements (CPS ASEC). 


  • In 2019, the overall SPM rate was 11.7 percent. This was 1.0 percentage point lower than the 2018 SPM rate of 12.8.

  • SPM rates were down for all major age categories: children under age 18, adults aged 18 to 64, and adults aged 65 and older between 2018 and 2019.

  • The SPM rate for 2019 was 1.3 percentage points higher than the official poverty rate of 10.5 percent.

  • The 2019 SPM rate of 11.7 percent was the lowest rate since estimates were initially published for 2009.

  • There were 16 states plus the District of Columbia for which SPM rates were higher than official poverty rates, 25 states with lower rates, and 9 states for which the differences were not statistically significant.

  • Social Security continued to be the most important anti-poverty program, moving 26.5 million individuals out of poverty. Refundable tax credits moved 7.5 million people out of poverty.


Page Last Revised - October 28, 2021
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