By Hilary Gee
Director of Health Policy
KIDS COUNT is a big deal here at KAC. Each fall, we release a report on child well-being for the state of Kansas as well as for each of the 105 counties. This is in addition to the national report the Annie E. Casey Foundation distributes in the summer.
One issue that we’ve discussed a LOT in the past few weeks around the release of the 2013 Kansas KIDS COUNT report is the diverse sources of poverty data. This issue can be confusing for staff as well as journalists and policymakers, so I’d like to share a bit more about these indicators.
Comparing poverty indicators can turn into alphabet soup. Here are some key sources, which are all provided by the U.S. Census Bureau:
- CPS – This information comes from the Current Population Survey and establishes the percent of children ages 0-18 living in families making less than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). This is a three-year average. We use this source for statewide poverty in Kansas KIDS COUNT.
- ACS – This indicator comes from the American Communities Survey. It covers children ages 0-17 living in families making less than FPL. This is the source for data about children in poverty in the National KIDS COUNT report.
- SAIPE –The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates identifies the percent of children ages 0-17 living below FPL. We use this for the Kansas KIDS COUNT county-level reports to see how poverty varies by location.
Each source of poverty data has strengths and limitations. For example, the SAIPE data is not as current as ACS and CPS (the most recent data year is 2011 for SAIPE, compared to 2012 for ACS and CPS), but it is important to compare child poverty rates between counties. Population density, employment, income vary widely across Kansas, so we want to show more information than the state-level indicator.
Because each indicator uses different methodology, they can’t be directly compared to one another. For example, child poverty under CPS was 20.98 percent in 2011, and under ACS was 19 percent in 2012, so it’s going down, right? Nope. The CPS rate for 2011 (20.98 percent) should be compared to CPS rate in 2012, which was up to 23.15 percent!
As you can see in this chart, all three measures of child poverty are moving in the wrong direction. But with all these indicators, one message is clear. The number of kids in poverty – whether measuring 0-18 or 0-19, statewide or in a particular county – is growing. Even more shocking is the rate of child poverty over the past 10 years. It’s time to reverse this trend.