Today is the 40th anniversary of the passage of the Food Stamp Act of 1977, which set the framework for the current Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). As SNAP and other social programs face potential structural changes or reductions in funding in current reauthorization and budgetary proposals, it is important to take a step back to evaluate how SNAP has worked to alleviate hunger and lift families from poverty over the past 40 years.

SNAP Combats Food Insecurity. SNAP has long functioned as a critical food assistance program for individuals and families facing food insecurity.[1] In 2015, SNAP helped more than 45 million individuals and families afford nutritionally adequate food. SNAP also has a significant impact on the well-being of children – with research showing that SNAP benefits can reduce food insecurity among children by 20 percent and improve their overall health by 35 percent. Another study found that SNAP participation reduced households’ food insecurity by about five to ten percentage points and reduced “very low food security,” which occurs when one or more household members have to skip meals or otherwise eat less due to lack of money, by about five to six percentage points.

SNAP Reduces Poverty. According to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, after Social Security Income and refundable tax credits, SNAP is the most effective federal program in lifting families out of poverty, lifting  3.6 million people out of poverty in 2016. SNAP is also structured so that families with the greatest financial need receive the most benefits. Research shows that 93 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes below the poverty line ($19,377 for a single parent with two children in 2016) and 58 percent go to families in deep poverty whose incomes are below half the poverty line ($9,689 for that same family in 2016). Research also shows that SNAP reduced the number of families with children living in extreme poverty, defined as earning less than $2 per person per day, by more than 48 percent and cut the number of children living in extreme poverty by more than half in 2011. Individuals with low incomes have to spend all of their monthly income meeting daily necessities, including shelter, food and transportation. Every dollar provided through SNAP to low income individuals and families for food allows them to spend an additional dollar on other necessities.

SNAP is Critical to the Safety Net. SNAP is one of the only federal means-tested benefit programs that is broadly available to almost all low income households. SNAP is able to respond quickly and effectively to support low income families and communities during times of increased need because of its structure as an entitlement program, meaning that anyone who qualifies under the program can receive benefits. Research shows that during times of economic downturn, enrollment in SNAP expands while enrollment declines when the economy recovers. Other than unemployment insurance, SNAP has been shown to be the most responsive federal program in providing assistance to low income families and communities during times of recession.

As we mark this anniversary – it is important to think not just about SNAP itself – but of the countless children and families who are better off because of it. There are few more basic needs than having adequate, healthy food. The SNAP program helps families meet that need during their toughest times – and is structured so that eligible families are not turned away. At CSSP, we are committed to ensuring that families have every possible opportunity to be healthy and successful – and access to healthy food is absolutely essential to that goal.

For more information on SNAP and its impact on supporting children and families, please see our publications Food Insecurity in Early Childhood and Supporting Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Through SNAP.

[1] The concept of “food security” is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to measure a household’s social and economic ability to access adequate food. Food insecurity of any degree indicates a lack of resources needed to meet basic needs, and a risk of poorer health and wellness outcomes due to lower quality nutrition.


Rosalynd Erney is a policy analyst at CSSP.

In August, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released a new report, A Crisis of Hate: A Mid Year Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Hate Violence Homicides. Typically, these reports are published annually. However, NCAVP decided to release this report early with hopes that it will raise awareness of the increased violence faced by the LGBTQ+ community. NCAVP has been tracking violence against the LGBTQ+ community for 20 years and NCAVP has recorded the highest number of anti-LGBTQ homicides just over halfway through 2017. This is an alarming fact, especially when considering that this number will likely grow, as the year 2018 is still several months away.

As of August 23rd, 2017, NCAVP recorded reports of “36 hate violence related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV affected people,” a 29 percent increase from 2016. In an attempt to further break down the data NCAVP collected, the report states that for the year 2017 thus far, “there has been nearly one homicide a week of an LGBTQ person in the U.S.” While this report demonstrates a stark increase in violence against all LGBTQ+ individuals, perhaps what is most disturbing is the increased number of transgender women of color who were the victims of homicides. Of the 19 murders of transgender and gender expansive individuals in the first half of 2017, 16 were transgender women of color. Notably, this report was published prior to the horrific murders of 28-year-old transgender man Kashmire Nazier Redd, nonbinary student activist Scout Schultz, 26-year-old transgender woman Derricka Banner and transgender teen Ally Steinfeld. This means that in the month since this report was published, the count of transgender and gender expansive homicides has increased by 16 percent, from 19 to 22, tragically surpassing the data reported in 2016.

In addition to this trend, there has also been a significant increase in reported violence and homicides against gay, bisexual and queer cisgender men. In 2016, four gay, bisexual and queer cisgender men were victims of homicide. For January through August of 2017, 17 cisgender gay, bisexual and queer men were murdered and over half (53 percent) of these victims were men of color. Despite increasing trends of violence against LGBTQ+ communities, data shows that people of color, transgender women of color, and queer, bisexual and gay cisgender men are more often the targets of anti-queer and racist violence. The fact that these groups experience oppression at the intersection of multiple identities – race, ethnicity, gender – undeniably contributes to these individuals facing higher levels of violence and higher murder rates than other members of the LGBTQ+ community experience.

While this report makes significant contributions to better understanding violence against some of the most at risk populations, data are limited. The number of homicides of LGBTQ+ people is likely higher. NCAVP cites several challenges to accurate data collection, such as the misidentification of victims’ sexual orientation and/or gender identity in police reports and the media. In addition, they note the media and law enforcement’s reluctance to categorize a crime as being related to bias.

A Crisis of Hate attributes the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ homicides in part to the turbulent political climate of the U.S. However, the report does not attribute these trends to any specific instance, policy change or otherwise. While the report does not propose solutions to the crisis, there are several organizations, states, cities and localities that are initiating actions to protect LGBTQ+ people in their communities, including:

  • Partnering with LGBTQ+ community members in creating LGBTQ+ task forces. DC Metropolitan Police Department’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Unit (LGBTLU) focuses on the safety needs of DC’s LGBT community, conducts public education campaigns on hate crimes and public safety, seeks to end hate crime and violent crime within the LGBT community and conducts patrols and responds to citizen complaints. These units are most effective when they partner with individuals from the local LGBTQ+ community every step of the way.
  • Decriminalizing sex work. Sex work is more common and also more dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals. In addition to LGBTQ+ individuals being more likely to engage in sex work to survive, LGBTQ+ sex workers are also nearly 2.5 times more likely to be attacked with a gun than other sex workers. Decriminalizing sex work would help keep LGBTQ+ sex workers safe by enabling them to access necessary resources and by protecting them from violent law enforcement. California is one state example where sex work has been decriminalized for minors with the passage of SB 1322 in 2016.
  • Prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Illinois became the most recent state to add gender identity to the list of protected categories in hate crime law, joining Washington, DC, Minnesota, California, Vermont, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, Delaware and Nevada. States that currently have sexual orientation covered in hate crime statute include California, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Vermont, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Iowa, Maine, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, Delaware, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Missouri, Kentucky, New York, Tennessee, Kansas, Puerto Rico, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico, Colorado and Maryland.
  • Creating LGBTQ+ inclusive policies. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to be turned away from homeless shelters and face a heightened risk of abuse, violence and exploitation. Transgender people are especially at risk, with some homeless shelters barring them from entering. Nonprofit homeless shelters that are specifically for homeless LGBTQ+ individuals have begun to pop up across the US to accommodate the needs of this community. A few examples of these shelters include Casa Ruby, The Wanda Alston Foundation, Project Fierce Chicago, and New Alternatives for Homeless Youth. These initiatives should be supported in conjunction with reforming policies of non-LGBTQ+ specific homeless shelters to ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals always have a place to go.
  • Promoting safe and inclusive transportation. Homobiles, a non-profit in California, offers safe, reliable, pay-what-you-can, 24/7 transit for the LGBTQ+ community. Buses, taxis, subways, and walking have proven to be unsafe modes of transportation for queer people, especially in urban areas and especially at night.

While many cities and localities have made strides toward protecting and supporting their LGBTQ+ community members and their allies, protections currently in place for this population are not sufficient. CSSP remains committed to working with our partners across the country to promote policies and practices that support, uplift and protect all people from violence and discrimination based on sexuality, gender identity, race, ethnicity, ability and immigration status. 


Erika Feinman is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

A Five-Year Reauthorization of CHIP is Needed Now

  ·   By Shadi Houshyar

On Monday, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy proposal, the latest Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal measure which would make devastating cuts to marketplace insurance subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and the Medicaid program by converting Medicaid funding into block grants to states. The measure failed to move to a roll call vote as three Senate Republicans announced that they would not support it, sounding a clear victory for the millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid, including nearly 37 million children. The bill’s failure ends any chance Republicans had of repealing the ACA before year’s end and likely in the foreseeable future.

While the most recent ACA repeal effort monopolized the attention of lawmakers, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and its future were sidelined. With current CHIP funding set to expire on Saturday, September 30th, the Senate Finance Committee has taken important steps to ensure that the program continues to provide health coverage to the 9 million children who rely on it. The Committee held a hearing on CHIP earlier this month, and on September 18th, took an important step toward ensuring uninterrupted funding for the program by releasing The Keeping Kids Insurance Dependable and Secure Act (S. 1827) - a bipartisan  bill to extend funding for CHIP for five years. The House has yet to act although it may look to mark up a package that includes funding for CHIP, community health centers and other extenders this week. There is limited time left and Congress must act now. The CHIP bill must be signed by September 30th before current funding expires.

Currently, 95 percent of children in the United States have health coverage – a historic high – thanks in large part to Medicaid and CHIP, which together, have cut the uninsured rate for children by more than two-thirds over the last two decades.

Currently, 95 percent of children in the United States have health coverage – a historic high – thanks in large part to Medicaid and CHIP, which together, have cut the uninsured rate for children by more than two-thirds over the last two decades. CHIP, a companion program to Medicaid, provides coverage for uninsured, low-income children who fail to qualify for Medicaid and lack access to other coverage options. The two programs play a critically important role for all low-income children, but are especially vital for children of color, helping to reduce disparities in health care access and service provision, improve continuity in care and advance health equity over time.

The last CHIP reauthorization extended the program through September 30, 2017, with federal CHIP allotments available to states until FY 2018. With state budgets already set for the coming year, states are counting on CHIP to continue in its current form. Changes to CHIP’s structure, as mentioned above, would cause significant disruption in children’s coverage and leave states with critical shortfalls in their budgets. If Congress fails to act before week’s end, all states will need to begin preparing to shut down their programs, with some states having to begin shutting down within a few months. They will need to let families know that their children will be disenrolled from coverage and they will be compelled to impose enrollment freezes, barring new applicants from obtaining coverage. Advocates have been voicing the strong and unified message on the need for a five-year extension of CHIP for some time with widely circulated letters, statements and factsheets that make the strong case for a reauthorization.

In order to ensure that children have a healthy start in life, health care must remain affordable, accessible and high-quality for all families with young children, particularly for those facing barriers to health care. Health coverage provides access to a range of essential health care services and supports that promote health and social and emotional development for children and youth. Children with insurance are more likely to have a usual source of care, health care services they need, access to preventive care, and as a result, be better prepared to do well academically and in other aspects of life. As Congress works to reform our nation’s health care systems, it should ensure that health coverage for children is protected and that no child is left worse off. A long-term extension of federal funding for existing CHIP programs is a critical next step. Congress must move quickly to enact a five-year extension of CHIP funding by passing the Keeping Kids Insurance Dependable and Secure Act (S. 1827). Health coverage for millions of children hangs in the balance and there is no time to waste. 


Shadi Houshyar is a senior associate at CSSP.

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau released its official statistics on poverty, income and health insurance coverage in 2016. Following last year’s trend, the data show improvements across all three measures. The average household’s income rose more from 2014 to 2016 than in any other two-year period, and the share of Americans without health insurance fell to a record low of 8.8 percent –  or 28.1 million people – in 2016, demonstrating the positive impact of major health coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

The 2016 American Community Survey (ACS), released yesterday, offers a closer look at the economic conditions facing families in cities and counties across the nation and provides greater insight into the experiences of children and families in these communities. Poverty negatively impacts the health and well-being of all individuals, but for a young child, its consequences can shape their entire life trajectory. Early childhood is a critical period for physical, cognitive and social-emotional growth, and creates the foundation for healthy development, academic success and well-being well into adolescence and adulthood. 

CSSP recognizes that public policy can play a significant role in improving the health and well-being of children and families, in particular, families facing the most significant barriers – including living in poverty. To consider the 2016 ACS data in the context of some innovative policy efforts underway across the country, we took a closer look at the data in 3 of CSSP’s EC-LINC network communities and highlighted some of the important work happening in these communities to ensure the health and well-being of young children and their families.

These EC-LINC communities - Los Angeles, CA, Boston, MA and Kent County, MI - are investing in and scaling up effective and innovative strategies for meeting the needs of young children and families. It is important to note that all three of these communities are in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage to adults in poverty – many of them parents. Coverage for parents means that more eligible children will enroll, stay enrolled and receive needed health care, including preventive care. Health coverage provides access to a range of essential health care services and supports that promote health and social and emotional development for children and youth. Children with insurance are more likely to have a usual source of care, health care services they need, access to preventive care, and as a result, be better prepared to do well academically and in other aspects of life. 

Los Angeles, California is home to First 5 LA. In LA County, 10.4 percent of people living in poverty in 2016 were children age 6 and under. Among these children, 75.8 percent were Hispanic or Latino compared to 5.6 percent of their White peers. In LA, 95.3 percent of children age 18 and below living at 138 percent or below of the poverty threshold were covered by some form of health insurance in 2016. 86.5 percent of these children were covered by some form of public insurance. 

There are several efforts underway in Los Angeles to advance the health and well-being of young children in the community. First 5 LA is working to increase family and community protective factors including strengthening families’ capacities, building social connections and concrete supports, promoting family-supporting communities through coordinated services and supports, and creating a common vision and social networks through various investments, including a place-based approach called Best Start in 14 communities. Best Start focuses on building supportive communities where children and families can thrive by bringing together parents and caregivers, residents, businesses and other stakeholders to collectively improve a community’s policies, resources and services to better support residents, and create communities where families can thrive.  

Welcome Baby, a free, voluntary home visiting program that supports pregnant women and new moms through pregnancy and early parenthood is a component of Best Start and is funded by First 5 LA. Welcome Baby started in 2009 as a pilot program and has since expanded to 13 LA County hospitals, serving approximately 60 percent of all families within Best Start communities and over a third of the births countywide. Pregnant women and new moms who deliver or plan to deliver in one of the participating Welcome Baby hospitals are paired with a personal Parental Coach who provides them with information and support during pregnancy and following birth, and if needed, referrals to community resources that help families receive health care coverage or other supportive services. Families enrolled in the program have demonstrated lower parental stress, higher levels of maternal responsiveness and greater communication skills, social competence and engagement compared to non-participating families. 

Boston, Massachusetts is home to the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. In Boston, 9.3 percent of people living in poverty in 2016 were children age 6 and under. Among these children, 51 percent were Black and 36.3 percent were Hispanic or Latino compared to 5.4 percent of White children. In Boston, 98.9 percent of children age 18 and below living at 138 percent or below of the poverty threshold were covered by some form of health insurance. 93.2 percent of these children were covered by some form of public insurance. 

In Boston, there are a number of initiatives underway to help prepare children to enter school ready to learn and develop critical social and academic skills. The United Way is working to ensure all of Boston’s children enter kindergarten ready for success and life through various initiatives including Thrive in 5, a partnership with the City of Boston. Recognizing that developmental screenings, coupled with strong linkages to early intervention services and consistent follow-up can promote well-being and healthy development and help ensure that all young children enter school ready and able to learn, the United Way is incubating the Data & Resources Investing in Vital Early Education (DRIVE), an effort to identify infants, toddlers and preschoolers who are most-at-risk of falling behind and connect them to early intervention services. Data from DRIVE are then used to ensure receipt of timely referrals and early intervention and parent have opportunities to increase their understanding, expectations and involvement in healthy child development. This model has the potential to scale to other cities in Massachusetts. 

Kent County, Michigan is home to First Steps Kent County and the Great Start Collaborative which are focused on ensuring that all children birth to age eight, especially those in highest need, have access to high-quality early learning and development programs and enter kindergarten prepared for success. In Kent County, 11 percent of people living in poverty in 2016 were children age 6 and under. Among these children, 15.9 percent were Black and 49.8 percent were Hispanic or Latino compared to 30.9 percent of White children. 94.1 percent of children age 18 and below living at 138 percent or below of the poverty threshold were covered by some form of health insurance. 89.1 percent of these children were covered by some form of public insurance. 

Committed to ensuring that every young child in Kent County will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and beyond, First Steps Kent County has taken a number of steps to promote positive outcomes for children in the community. These actions include creating the first Kent County Community Plan for Early Childhood, serving as a key player in Michigan's recent 'historic' expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program – a publicly funded preschool program for 4 year olds with factors which may place them at risk of educational failure, and launching multiple demonstration projects including the Children's Healthcare Access Program (CHAP), Early Learning Communities and Welcome Home Baby

CHAP is an evidence-based model that improves the quality of care and health outcomes for children with Medicaid while reducing the cost of care. While originally launched by First Steps, CHAP has since been scaled state-wide to demonstrate that by reallocating resources to focus on prevention and early intervention, the result will be improved health outcomes, higher quality of care and reduced healthcare costs for Michigan’s children. MI-CHAP transforms medical care delivery to the families, providing services throughout the state by utilizing Virtual CHAP (expertly trained CHAP Specialists who are available by calling Michigan 2-1-1 and provide assistance in areas including Medicaid Benefits) and local multidisciplinary teams to increase access to medical homes for children on Medicaid and decrease costs associated with emergency room visits, inpatient hospitalizations and inappropriate asthma management. 

As these examples demonstrate, communities across the country are investing in promising approaches to support families with young children, including home visiting programs, place-based initiatives that help to build communities where children can thrive, and innovations in pediatric care and early learning that focus on early identification and intervention to ensure that children are linked with necessary services and supports and enter school ready and able to learn. While these programs have reached many families, truly scaling such efforts – and better meeting the needs of the millions of children that are experiencing poverty across the country - necessitates policy change.

The ACS data released yesterday make a compelling case for why policy matters and the opportunity policymakers have to improve services and supports for young children and families across the nation. Local data provide important insight into the experiences of children and families living in poverty and highlight how existing supports and services can better meet the needs of every family. To ensure that policies are responsive to the needs of families, policymakers must look at what is happening at the local level and the ACS data provide an opportunity to do that. A look at innovations taking place in these three EC-LINC communities provides promising examples of programs with potential to scale.

Policymakers should use these data to inform action that can be taken now to ensure that children and families have the supports needed to thrive including access to health care, prevention and early learning opportunities. Failure to invest in children and families during early childhood results in inequities that can produce poor and costly outcomes later in life. Policymakers must embrace the challenge of continuing efforts to tackle poverty, inequities and uninsured rates and not leave children and families worse off. In doing so, they should build on our progress in recent years by expanding the innovative efforts underway in communities across the country so that every young child has the opportunities needed to truly thrive.


Shadi Houshyar is a senior associate at CSSP.

Today’s release of data by the U. S. Census Bureau on income, poverty and health insurance coverage in 2016 reinforces the crucial role of public policy in mitigating poverty. Despite promising improvements over the past year, the data also revealed an unacceptably high proportion of people (12.7 percent) still living in poverty, with women, children, and people of color experiencing disproportionately higher rates of poverty than their adult, male and non-Hispanic White peers in 2016. Furthermore, almost one in ten people live just above the poverty line and are one crisis away – including a lost job or illness – from falling into poverty. Public policy is an important tool in helping families when they experience a crisis, to support families while they work to provide stability for their children, and to assist families that have been held down by the continued barriers of systemic racism. 

Poverty Highlights 

The 2016 data saw improvements in the number of people living in poverty – 2.5 million fewer people lived in poverty in 2016, down 0.8 percentage points from 2015. However, today’s data also continues to highlight real racial, gender and age disparities in poverty. 

  • 8.8 percent of non- Hispanic Whites and 10.1 percent of Asians lived in poverty in 2016, while Blacks and Hispanics experienced poverty at rates of 22.0 percent and 19.4 percent respectively.
  • In 2016, 14 percent of women lived in poverty compared to 11.3 percent of men. Gender disparities were most pronounced for women ages 18 to 64 with 13.4 percent of women in this age group living in poverty compared to 9.7 percent of men.
  • The poverty rate for families (households – not householder) was 9.8 percent. This rate varied for families with a female head of household (no husband present) at 26.6 percent and for families with a male householder (no wife present) at 13.1 percent.
  • The poverty rate for children in female-headed households was five times the rate for children in married-couple families, at 42.1 percent and 8.4 percent respectively.
  • The poverty rates for Black and Hispanic children, at 30.8 percent and 26.6 percent respectively, were significantly higher than their non-Hispanic White and Asian peers, who faced poverty rates of 10.8 percent and 11.1 percent respectively.

Income Highlights 

The official median income in 2016 saw a statistically significant increase of 3.2 percent from 2015. However clear racial disparities persisted as Black and Hispanic populations continued to face significant income disparities compared with their non-Hispanic White and Asian counterparts[1]. Furthermore, women of color, particularly Black and Hispanic women, continued to face significantly lower earnings than their male counterparts. 

  • The median household income in 2016 was $59,039, a statistically significant change from 2015. 
  • The real median income of non-Hispanic White ($65,041), Black ($39,490), and Hispanic ($47,675) households increased 2.0 percent, 5.7 percent, and 4.3 percent, respectively, between 2015 and 2016.
  • Asian households had the highest real median income ($81,431) in 2016, with no statistically significant percentage change over 2015.
  • In 2016, the median earnings of all women who worked full time, year-round was $41,554 compared to $51,640 for men working full time, year-round.

 Health Insurance Highlights

As in the previous year, the share of Americans lacking health insurance coverage continued to fall to 8.8 percent in 2016 – a historical low that highlights the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), while stressing the need for continued investment in such policies. The 2016 data also demonstrate how these policies work to advance equitable outcomes in that coverage rates for both Black and Hispanic people, as well as low-income people, continued to increase. 

  • In 2016, the rates of private coverage and government coverage continued to increase to 67.5 percent and 37.3 percent respectively.
  • Working-age adults between the ages of 19 and 64 also continued to see coverage gains at 87.9 percent.
  • In 2016, 93.7 percent of non-Hispanic Whites had health insurance coverage compared with 92.4 percent of Asians, 89.5 percent of Blacks and 84.0 percent of Hispanics.
  • In 2016, 94.7 percent of children age 18 and under were covered compared to 88.1 percent of adults, in part due to Medicaid and CHIP which covers children from low-income families.
  • The uninsured rate in 2016 for non-Hispanic White children was 4.1 percent compared to 5.0 percent for Asian children, 5.5 percent for Black children and 7.9 percent of Hispanic children.
  • While the maps below demonstrate the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in reducing uninsured rates across the country, today’s data further emphasize the impact of Medicaid expansion under the ACA, with expansion states experiencing uninsured rates of almost half those of non-expansion states: 6.5 percent compared to 11.7 percent, respectively.

 The Positive Impact of Policy 

Data from this year’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) – which takes into account cash income, public benefits and subtracts necessary expenses – continues to demonstrate the important role of public policies in improving the well-being of those facing the greatest barriers to success. While the official poverty measure is based on only pre-tax money income, the SPM also considers the value of in-kind benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), school lunches, housing assistance and refundable tax credits. Additionally, the supplemental poverty measure deducts necessary expenses for crucial goods and services, including taxes, child care, transportation costs and out-of-pocket medical expenses.

 According to the SPM: 

  • 2016’s supplemental poverty rate was 13.9 percent, not a statistically significant change from 2015.
  • The supplemental poverty rate for children, taking into account tax credits and noncash benefits, was 15.1 percent – a significant decrease than the official child poverty rate of 18.0 percent.
  • As was the case in 2015, the top three federal benefit programs that reduced poverty in 2016 were Social Security, refundable tax credits and SNAP. Each program reduced the supplemental poverty rate by 8.1 percent, 2.5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
  • The greatest increases to the supplemental poverty rate were caused by out-of-pocket medical expenses (3.3 percent) and work expenses (1.8 percent).


Policy Matters  

In 2016, 2.5 million people who lived in poverty in 2015 were better off. Policy is critically important for lifting households out of poverty and ensuring that those at greatest risk of slipping into poverty have a strong safety net in times of need. The poverty data released today highlight the clear and positive impact of public policies aimed at strengthening the social safety net. While we continue to see women, children and people of color experiencing disproportionately higher poverty rates and lower incomes when compared to their male or non-Hispanic White counterparts, social safety net programs have provided some of the resources needed to prevent them from falling below or deeper into poverty. Attempts to roll back policies that have been shown to advance well-being outcomes for those living in poverty will undoubtedly reverse the improving trends we’ve seen over the past few years. Pursuing policy strategies that take into account the unique needs of those facing the greatest barriers to success and the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes is the best way to support those who have been living in and near the poverty level. The data released today by the Census Bureau show the positive impact public investments can have on reducing poverty, improving employment opportunities and ensuring families have health insurance.

[1] It is important to note that studies have found that Hmong Americans have a startlingly high poverty rate at 37.8 percent, followed closely by Cambodian Americans at 29.3 percent and Laotian Americans at 18.5 percent.