Poor Measurement: New Census Report on Measuring Poverty Raises Concerns
 In addition, changes in the deflator used to adjust for price changes can make a difference. Many alternative measures also use a different equivalence scale to adjust for differences in family size.
 The poverty rates under the various NAS measures that Census released last year were all above the official poverty rate. In some past years, and in some versions of the NAS measures, the NAS rates were below the official rate.
 Our analysis of the new Census report focuses on the poverty measure that the report says is based on “disposable income.” The new report (like the old “R and D” tables) also includes some supplemental poverty measures that leave out various cash and cash-like benefits and are essentially “pre-transfer” poverty measures; those measures produce poverty rates higher than the official poverty rate. (Those supplemental measures illustrate how various types of income affect the poverty rate and are not meant to provide a complete picture of families’ actual economic well-being.) Because Census says its new report is “intended to provide a more complete measure of economic well-being,” we focus here on the “disposable income” measure.
 Orshansky herself is a vocal critic of the use of these thresholds today. See Bernstein, 2003, New York Times op-ed, http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0814FB3E590C758EDDA00894DB404482
 Besides the NAS-guided measures, many previous Census reports also contain an older series of alternative poverty measures, known as the “R and D measures,” that examine the effects of various changes to the income definition while retaining the official thresholds.
 This comparison is based on the new report’s “disposable income” poverty measure, which Census highlights as “more comprehensive” than the current measure.
 Using the three-parameter scale for family-size adjustment used in the recent report, and the official definition of money income, the overall poverty rate in 2004 was 12.6 percent under the poverty thresholds in the new Census report (which are pegged to the official thresholds) but would have been 13.3 percent using the NAS thresholds. Source: Economic Policy Institute tabulations of the March 2005 Current Population Survey.
 Census tables accompanying the new report indicate that the report’s treatment of home equity lowers the poverty rate by 1.2 percent in 2004. For the effects of counting home equity, compare the poverty rates under definition 1a (12.6 percent) and definition 1b (11.4 percent) in Table RD-REV POV01, available at www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/effect2004/effect2004.html.
 Earlier research by the Census Bureau shows that child care expenses alone raised poverty in 1997 by 0.3 percentage points or more.
 In past work comparing expanded income measures to existing poverty lines, CBPP has cautioned readers about the limitations of these comparisons. CBPP has noted problems with using existing poverty lines, failing to account adequately for families’ work expenses, and other measurement issues, and advised that any attempt to redefine the official poverty measure should address these issues. See Arloc Sherman, Public Benefits: Easing Poverty and Ensuring Medical Coverage, revised August 2005, www.cbpp.org/7-19-05acc.htm.