Ziliak to Chair Panel of Experts Examining Supplemental Poverty Measure

University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research (UKCPR) Director James Ziliak will chair a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine panel tasked with evaluating and recommending improvements to the nation’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM is used by the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to improve understanding of how lower income people are affected by the economy.

“Dr. Ziliak was chosen from among many qualified candidates because of what he brings to the table as a respected researcher and leader,” said Gatton College Dean Simon Sheather. “His strength in poverty research allows him to lead by example, and his appointment represents our continued commitment as a college to addressing the issues of poverty and federal policy."

Ziliak’s role as chair will be to lead the expert panel in evaluating the SPM and producing a consensus report with recommendations for modification of the existing measure. The group will conduct its evaluation of the SPM over a 24-month period and provide its recommendations to the federal agencies that oversee the SPM.

Ziliak has previously chaired the NASEM Workshop on Research Gaps and Opportunities on the Causes and Consequences of Child Hunger and served as a member of two other NASEM workgroups that evaluated national statistics produced by the Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure provides information that enhances the official poverty measure, which was established by the Office of Management and Budget in the 1960s. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also publishes a poverty threshold, which looks at household income levels and is used to determine eligibility of a range of social services. The SPM provides more nuanced information about poverty by taking into account the myriad government programs that assist low income people.

The expert panel to be led by Ziliak includes nationally known economists and poverty scholars at leading research universities. Included in the 14- member panel are Jane Waldfogel, professor of public affairs at Columbia University; David Johnson, who leads the Panel Study of Income Dynamics at the University of Michigan; and Michele Ver Ploeg, director of the Food and Health Policy Institute at George Washington University.

Also included on the panel of national experts is Bradley Hardy, who received his Ph.D. in economics at the University of Kentucky and is chair of the department of public administration and policy at American University. Hardy is also a research affiliate of UKCPR.

Ziliak is considered a leading national expert on issues related to poverty, food insecurity, and the social safety net and is frequently called on for comments in the national press, such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine comprise experts who provide direction on important issues in the nation and world. NASEM panels help develop policy, provide information to the public, and advance scientific knowledge.

To read about the SPM panel members and their directive, visit the NASEM information page.