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Measuring Texans' Well-Being Goes Beyond Family Income

PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds government interventions are reducing the child poverty rate, and cites a better way to measure kids' well-being than just family income. Photo credit: Randen Pederson/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds government interventions are reducing the child poverty rate, and cites a better way to measure kids' well-being than just family income. Photo credit: Randen Pederson/Flickr.
February 25, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - Taking a look at the trends on poverty offers a glimpse on how Texas families and kids are faring, but a new report points to an even truer measure of childhood well-being.

The U.S. Census Bureau created the Supplemental Poverty Measure in 2011. Jennifer Lee, a research associate with the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, said it not only looks at income but also at regional differences in the cost of living and the impact of programs such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

"Those have decreased the child poverty rate by nearly a third," she said. "Programs like Social Security, SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] and housing subsidies are also captured in the Supplemental Poverty Measure, and those have also contributed significantly to fewer children living in poverty using this measure."

Because of those safety-net programs and policies, the report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the child poverty rate in Texas is nearly cut in half, reduced from 36 percent to 19 percent.

While providing a clearer view of childhood well-being, Lee said, the Supplemental Poverty Measure also offers greater insight into the efforts for low-income families that are working.

"We should use the information to help us continue to invest in the programs and policies that we know work," she said, "and expand on those programs that can help all kids."

Nationally, the report said, the poverty rate for children falls from 33 perent to 18 percent when accounting for government programs.

The Annie E. Casey report is online at AECF.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX