March 2010 Issue • Volume 38 • Issue 3

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Science Policy

A new definition of poverty in America is announced

Since 1964, when the official poverty measure was first published, it has not been redefined, but on March 2 the Obama administration announced a new formula that will include a wider range of factors in defining who is poor. This Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), formed by an Interagency Technical Working Group and announced by the Commerce Department, should provide a more accurate count of the number of Americans struggling financially. Based on the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences and informed by the last 15 years of research, the new definition, acknowledging that food has become a smaller share of poor families’ costs, will also consider expenses such as housing, utilities, child care, and health care. In addition, it will take geographic location into account. According to the working group’s report, the SPM, to be used in a fall 2010 Census report, would not replace the official poverty measure and should be considered a work in progress. For more information, see


10 years, 10 key social and economic findings about
the U.S. population

The Population Reference Bureau Bulletin, "U.S. Economic and Social Trends Since 2000," analyzes the last 10 years of economic and social trends in the United States. The 10 key findings about the last 10 years are summarized here: 1) There are wide-ranging effects of the recession; 2) some short-term trends are adaptations of recession; 3) fertility rates expected to decline; 4) education levels increase, especially among women; 5) if current gaps in school enrollment and completion rates among blacks and Hispanics persist, the United States may not have the workforce it needs to succeed; 6) job losses and housing market declines have disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos; 7) there is a growing poverty gap between children and the elderly, but children without health insurance dropped sharply; 8) more people are delaying marriage; 9) fewer people are moving; 10) the largest concentration of out-migration occurs in rural communities. All materials are available at

The NIH Common Fund highlights emerging science and technology advancement, including behavior change

The National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins announced seven scientific initiatives. The research programs are supported through the NIH Common Fund, which encourages collaborative research programs across the NIH institutes and centers (ICs) to accomplish work that no single IC could do alone. The programs are all scheduled to begin during fiscal year 2010. One of the programs, the Science of Behavior Change Program, examines how human biology, culture, and society together influence a person’s ability to adopt healthy behaviors and maintain them over time. This initiative will address effective motivation strategies that might be developed to curb unhealthy behaviors. The research programs will distribute $17.8 million in NIH Common Fund ( support in fiscal year 2010, and additional funds in future years.

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