New York City Uses AHRQ Data to Help Develop New Measure of Poverty

March 2009

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO) used Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data in the development of its measure of poverty for the city. This work appears in The CEO Poverty Measure: A Working Paper, August 2008. New York City is the first local government in the nation to measure poverty using a method based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences.

According to Mark Levitan, PhD, CEO and Director of Poverty Research, "AHRQ's assistance was essential to our work in estimating out-of-pocket medical expenditures, a key component of our work."

The Census Bureau's measure of poverty established in 1969 measures poverty by comparing a family's total pre-tax cash income against a set of thresholds, called the poverty line, that vary by family size and composition. New York City policymakers felt these measures did not adequately reflect either the relatively high cost of living in New York City or the full range of resources available to families in meeting their needs.

The new poverty measure establishes its income threshold on the basis of family expenditures for food, clothing, shelter, and utilities. The poverty line is then adjusted to account for differences in housing costs across the nation. The measure of resources includes not only cash income, but the effect of tax liabilities and credits; near-cash assistance such as food stamps and housing subsidies; commuting; childcare costs; and medical out-of-pocket spending.

The CEO used the Census Bureau's American Community Survey as the principal source of data in its work. But medical-out-of-pocket expenditures are not included in the Census Bureau's survey. CEO relied on MEPS data and technical assistance from AHRQ staff to address the need to estimate this spending.

Housed within the Mayor's Office, the CEO was established in 2006 by Mayor Bloomberg to identify and implement innovative ways to reduce poverty in New York City. The CEO works with city agencies to design and implement evidence-based initiatives, strategies, and programs aimed at poverty reduction. The CEO is also offering technical assistance to other municipalities and states throughout the nation that are interested in replicating this new methodology for measuring poverty.

The CEO Poverty Measure: A Working Paper is available at [PDF file, 970 KB; ].

Impact Case Study Identifier: 
AHRQ Product(s): Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)
Topics(s): Policy, Data
Geographic Location: New York
Implementer: New York City Center for Economic Opportunity
Date: 03/01/2009
Page last reviewed October 2014