WASHINGTON – Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Poverty Measurement Improvement Act Wednesday, a bill that would improve the accuracy of poverty measurement by requiring the Census Bureau to supplement its existing poverty data with additional data from other federal agencies.
“This bill has one goal, to protect the most vulnerable by making sure our limited government resources are being used as efficiently as possible,” Sen. Lee said. “We spend over $1 trillion on means-tested welfare programs every year, so we need to make sure that money is being spent effectively.”
The Census Bureau’s current population survey does not capture all the income and benefits that low-income Americans receive. The survey’s participants dramatically underreport both income and receipt of funds. This necessarily understates the anti-poverty effect of the federal government’s poverty alleviation spending.
The Consumer Expenditure survey, which measures spending, is administered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For the past twenty years, the vast majority of low-income households—70 percent—report their spending to be higher than their income. The data on receipts of means-tested benefits is readily available, but the CPS data is not cross-checked against this actual administrative data.
This bill would require the Census Bureau to supplement their existing poverty data with new data collected from other federal agencies.
You can read the full text of the bill here.