Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Measuring Poverty, Part III

We've been discussing the issues around measuring poverty here and here. Poverty is a critical issue -- in the US, we've been fighting a War on Poverty for over 40 years -- but we still haven't figured out how to define what it is we're fighting.

The National Human Services Assembly reports on the attempts this week to get closer to a shared measurement tool for poverty:

On August 1, the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held “Measuring Poverty in America,” to explore how the federal government measures poverty and potential alternatives to the current formula. Representatives and panelists agreed that the current official poverty measure -- based on 1960s estimates of food consumption -- is outdated and does not accurately indicate the cash and non-cash means available to families. However, panelists disagreed as to what the US official poverty measure should be, and how income, in particular, should be defined.

In their coverage of the issue, the National Assembly reports:

Absolute measures of poverty, such as the current US official measure, are ones that attempt to define a truly basic – absolute -- needs standard that is only updated for inflation. Relative measures, however, explicitly define poverty as a condition of comparative disadvantage, to be assessed against some evolving standard of living. Patricia Ruggles (National Academy of Sciences) testified in support of a hybrid measure of poverty, arguing that poverty thresholds must reflect current consumption needs. Failure to adjust such thresholds, she contested, would significantly undercount the numbers of those living in poverty. In determining what should be counted as income, she stated that policymakers must first ask what the poverty line seeks to measure.

To access witnesses’ testimony, please click here:

In your community indicators efforts, how do you measure poverty?


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