Alternative Census Poverty Measures Show Big Jump in Asian American Poverty

Under a more up-to-date poverty measure, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), the Census estimate for the Asian American population jumps from 12.1 under the current measure to 16.7 percent. This change is three times the effect for other racial groups. The poverty rate for the total population is 15.2 percent under the current measure and 16 percent under SPM.

The census has been testing a more modern measure for poverty. The current official definition has been unchanged since 1969 is soley based on food costs. The census now publish an alternative measure that takes into account housing, clothing, and health costs and geographic differences among other changes. 

However, for African Americans and renters, the poverty rates would drop.

The poverty report was issued in the past couple of weeks. It was the subject of media confusion that led to headlines saying that 1 in 2 U.S. residents were in poverty or low-income. However, the Census said that this was not their official position as it was still using the current definition of poverty and does not consider 200% of the poverty threshold as low-income in SPM. This 200% definition was used to calculate the 1 in 2 estimate. Nevertheless, a large percentage of U.S. residents are low income.