Measuring Poverty in the United States

Source: Sarah Fass, National Center for Children in Poverty, May 2009

From the summary:
The U.S. government measures poverty by a narrow income standard that does not include other aspects of economic status, such as material hardship (for example, living in substandard housing) or debt, nor does it consider financial assets (including savings or property). The official poverty measure is a specific dollar amount that varies by family size but is the same across the continental U.S. According to the guidelines, the poverty level in 2009 is $22,050 a year for a family of four and $18,310 for a family of three. The poverty guidelines are used to determine eligibility for public programs. A similar but more complex measure is used for calculating poverty rates. The current poverty measure was established in the 1960s and is now widely acknowledged to be flawed. It was based on research indicating that families spent about one-third of their incomes on food – the official poverty level was set by multiplying food costs by three. Since then, the figures have been updated annually for inflation but have otherwise remained unchanged.

Leave a Reply