Public service is founded on the idea that one person can make a difference in the lives of others. Daniel Weinberg is the embodiment of that ideal. His work in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division has had a demonstrable impact on the lives of America’s less fortunate.
One of his early accomplishments was the initiation of the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program to provide updated estimates of income and poverty statistics to help administer federal programs and allocate federal funds to local jurisdictions. The program was so successful at the county level that Congress directed it be expanded to produce estimates of the nation’s roughly 15,000 school districts. The National Academy of Sciences endorsed these estimates for use in Title 1 funding to improve the teaching and learning of the 12.5 million U.S. children in high-poverty schools. As a result, for the first time since 1965, funding was allocated on a school district by school district basis, as originally intended.
Because of his strong intellectual interest and expertise in this field, Weinberg has been an active and vocal champion for updating the 40-year-old official poverty measure. Weinberg has testified before Congress on statistical measurement, and he was instrumental in organizing and supporting a National Academy of Sciences panel on poverty measurement. Subsequent to the panel’s final report, he helped persuade the Office of Management and Budget to establish an interagency working group on poverty and to support a budget initiative to expand the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to improve measurement of this key indicator. He also initiated a research program at the Census Bureau that produced a landmark July 1999 report on experimental poverty measures that was updated in October 2001.
These new measures are slowly becoming the standard by which the vulnerabilities of those less well-off are being measured. These new measures are now a regular part of the annual release of official poverty statistics. Better measurement will lead in time to better program targeting and improved lives for those in need of assistance.
Weinberg’s efforts have had a direct and lasting impact within the Department of Commerce and the federal agencies which manage means-tested programs. Americans who are financially struggling now receive programmatic support that more accurately reflects their economic needs.
Weinberg’s leadership has been acknowledged by those with whom he has worked, although his contributions are felt by thousands of people he doesn’t even know.