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The Federal Poverty Level Does Not Meet Data Needs of the California Legislature

May 16, 2012

Policy Brief

Authors: D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, PhD, MPH, Steven P. Wallace, PhD

This policy brief highlights results from a survey of a broad sample of the California legislature on their data and information needs, as well as their familiarity and use of various economic measures. It finds that legislative staff most often use the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) when they are making recommendations about policy and evaluating programs for low-income populations. Yet the FPL does not meet most of the criteria for economic data that legislative staff say they want. Specifically, the FPL does not measure local conditions, it is not based on current costs, and it does not take into account all types of expenses faced by low-income families. Other measures of economic security more accurately meet legislative staff's stated data and information needs, including the Elder & Family Economic Security Indices, the U.S Census Supplemental Poverty Measure and Relative Poverty Measures. Improving awareness and usability of these other measures of economic security can better match the data and information needs of the California legislature and can contribute to innovative solutions to help California's most vulnerable populations.​​

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