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SPMTHRESH is a 22-digit floating point variable.


SPMTHRESH records the poverty threshold used to calculate the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) for a family. Unlike the official poverty measure, SPM threshold are based on consumer expenditures on food, clothing, shelter and utilities (FCSU) and updated to reflect changes in family spending.

The base SPM threshold is calculated for a two-adult, two-child family, and distinguishes between families that rent, own their home with a mortgage, or own their home without a mortgage (available in SPMMORT). The threshold is then adjusted to reflect the number of adults and children in the family using an equivalence scale (available in SPMEQSCALE). The SPM definition of family poverty units differs from the family units used to calculate official poverty rates; SPM family units are identified in SPMFAMUNIT. SPM thresholds are further adjusted to reflect geographic differences in the cost of living (recorded in SPMGEOADJ).

For more information on the calculation of SPM thresholds, see the Census Bureau's "The Research Supplemental Poverty Measure" report.


SPMTHRESH is comparable across years from 2010 to 2018.

In 2019, the Census Bureau implemented a new processing system to accommodate survey changes. These changes affect income and relationship variables, making poverty measurements before and after 2019 incomparable. For more information on this overhaul, see our guide to the 2019 ASEC updates.

In 2021, the Census Bureau implemented several changes to the calculation of SPM poverty thresholds. These include:

  • Moving the base of the thresholds from the average of 30-36th percentile to 83% of the average of the 47th-53rd percentiles
  • Expanding the estimation sample to include all consumer units with children
  • Lagging Consumer Expenditure Survey data by one year
  • Adding imputed in-kind benefits to the thresholds
  • Ceasing to geographically adjust telephone expenditures
  • Adding home internet expenditures to the threshold
  • Replacing the All Items, All Urban index with a composite Food, Clothing, Shelter, and Utilities Consumer Price index to adjust threshold components.

For more details on the 2021 updates to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, see Burns and Fox, 2021.


  • All persons.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2010 – 2023 - - X - - - - - - - - -


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