Friday, August 14, 2009

Outdated Measure of Poverty Limits Services for Kids

Siblings 1900 hgThe Federal Poverty Level (FPL), the current measure of poverty in the United States, was developed in the 1960s and is based on a family’s cost of food times three. When the FPL was developed it was found that food was one-third of a families budget. However, as shown by the Self-Sufficiency Standard, costs such as child care and health care now dominate a family’s budget. In Pennsylvania, where one out of three houses are below the FPL, one out of five homes are truly struggling to make ends meet.

The newly released Kids Count from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that there are serious shortcomings in national data. According to the report, the outdated federal measure of household poverty undermines the task of identifying and assisting America's most vulnerable children. By not knowing how many children are in need and where they are located, services cannot be tailored effectively.

The report urges the government to overhaul the FPL, to strengthen efforts in the 2010 census to fully count children and minorities, and to improve the national vital-statistics system to better track data on disadvantaged families. In the report, the Casey Foundation stated that "perhaps the single most glaring shortfall comes in our efforts to measure poverty, ‘the key performance indicator’ that rises above all others in its impact on children's futures."

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