Tracking Child Poverty in Vermont

An Evaluation of Vermont Child Poverty Council Benchmarks
PRS Briefs
PRS Policy Brief 1011-03
Monday, January 31, 2011

This report has been prepared for the Vermont Child Poverty Council (VCPC), a subcommittee of the Vermont state legislature tasked with reducing childhood poverty by fifty percent by the year 2017. The VCPC tasked the Policy Research Shop to find out whether or not the data for measuring a series of benchmarks concerning poverty was being adequately tracked and which organizations tracked the data.

Poverty levels in the state of Vermont are relatively low compared to the nation as a whole, but still present a great challenge to the state. Vermont has the 11th lowest percentage of children in poverty (13.2 percent) and the 14th lowest percentage of people in poverty overall. However, the characteristics of those in poverty in Vermont are somewhat different from those in the nation as a whole. Poverty in Vermont is mostly white and rural, while the majority of individuals in poverty throughout the nation are minorities in urban areas. While Vermont is not the only state where such a phenomenon exists, the different demographic profile potentially poses a unique set of challenges when it comes to alleviating poverty. That is why a unique set of benchmarks was created to help define and identify issues with child poverty in the state.

The report provides the findings of the Policy Research Shop (PRS), a research center at the Rockefeller Center of Dartmouth College. The PRS was able to determine whether or not each benchmark set by the VCPC was tracked, which organization provided the most recent data to track this benchmark, and specific data corresponding to the benchmark. The benchmarks do not provide a minimum standard to be met, but will rather help the VCPC track Vermont’s progress on reducing poverty in a comprehensive way. In this report, the PRS provides recommendations on means by which to consolidate the data and make it more readily available to the VCPC. The PRS also identifies missing data, provides recommendations as to how to collect data for benchmarks not currently tracked, and proposes minor changes to the benchmarks that would provide a better measure of poverty. Overall, we can conclude the following:

  1. The data necessary to track most of the benchmarks is currently available through existing state, federal, and non-governmental agencies.
  2. Though the data is being tracked, it is spread out between a variety of entities that may or may not share data. If a database were created containing all of the data concerning child poverty and welfare in Vermont, organizations would be able to act more cohesively.
  3. The wording of some of the VCPC benchmarks makes it difficult to standardize tracking and analysis. These benchmarks could be revised to better measure child poverty.