HKS Authors

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The official poverty rate for American children rose during the 1970s and 1980s and fell during the 1990s, but it was still significantly higher in 1999 than in 1969. Since the poverty line is supposed to represent a fixed standard of living, these change in child poverty imply that low-income children’s standard of living was lower in 1999 than in 1969. We test this hypothesis using data on housing conditions, telephone service, automobile ownership, doctor visits, and food consumption. With the possible exception of food consumption, trends in these domains do not match the trend in official child poverty. Plausible corrections to the way poverty is measured generate a time series that comes closer to matching trends in living conditions, but the match is still far from perfect.


Jencks, Christopher, Susan E. Mayer, and Joseph Swingle. "Can We Fix the Federal Poverty Measure So It Provides Reliable Information About Changes in the Children's Living Conditions." September 2004.