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New Report: Identifying Anti-Poverty Programs that are Effective

GRAPHIC: This illustration shows Wisconsin's huge disparity between children of color living in poverty and white children living in poverty. A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report describes a more useful way of measuring poverty and identifying programs that are effective in fighting it. Image courtesy of Wisconsin Budget Project.
GRAPHIC: This illustration shows Wisconsin's huge disparity between children of color living in poverty and white children living in poverty. A new Annie E. Casey Foundation report describes a more useful way of measuring poverty and identifying programs that are effective in fighting it. Image courtesy of Wisconsin Budget Project.
February 25, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - A report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that using a new system of measuring poverty called the Supplemental Poverty Measure would enable policymakers to arrive at better decisions about which programs really work to help reduce poverty.

Jim Moeser, deputy director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, says the new index shows two programs that are really working for Wisconsin children living in poverty.

"The Earned Income Tax Credit, which is very beneficial for working families, that helps get them over the hump a little bit on some of the resources they need," he says. "Also Supplemental Nutrition Assistance or what people might think of as food stamps."

The Casey Foundation says the Supplemental Poverty Measure takes into account more relevant factors than the government's official poverty measure, which was developed in the 1960s.

Using this new measure shows about one-in-seven Wisconsin children lives in poverty, compared to one in five using the old measure. Moeser says the new measure can lead to better policy decisions.

"Understanding more details of how families are really living and how the benefits are helping them gives us a better way to assess what can be improved and what needs to be sustained," Moeser says.

Moeser says it's important for people to know some government programs really are working to reduce poverty, which remains a much larger problem for people of color in Wisconsin than among non-Hispanic whites.

Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation, says the Supplemental Poverty Measure takes into account safety-net programs, which the old measure does not, and shows how government is playing a strong role in making children's lives better.

"In the three-year period from 2011 to 2013, government interventions cut the child poverty rate nearly in half, from 33 percent to 18 percent, lifting about 11 million children above the poverty line," Speer says.

According to Speer, there are estimates that child poverty costs society about $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings and health-related costs.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI