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Testimony: Hearing on Measuring Poverty

House Committee on Ways and Means

October 24, 2023

Chairman Smith, Subcommittee Chairman LaHood, Ranking Member Davis, and distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify.

I am Bruce Meyer, McCormick Foundation Professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. My 40-year-long research agenda has focused on the accuracy of government data; I have served on multiple major government commissions; and I have worked for or been a long-term advisor to the main federal agencies producing poverty statistics.

This hearing is occurring because a recent National Academy of Sciences report commissioned by the Census Bureau recommended making the Supplemental Poverty Measure the official poverty measure. Such a change would be problematic. You have heard from an earlier speaker that the Official Poverty Measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure are misleading. In short, the Official Poverty Measure doesn’t count most of what the government does to reduce poverty. The Supplemental Poverty Measure incorporates more of these efforts, but relies on a survey that heavily underreports key programs and income sources and inaccurately imputes taxes and tax credits. The SPM also moves the poverty goal posts over time in a complicated quasi-relative way so it is hard to make comparisons over time, and means poverty could go down when deprivation rises.

Read the entire testimony here.