Making ends meet on $21,834 a year

Source: Andrea Orr, Economic Policy Institute, September 24, 2009

In the wake of the U.S. Census Bureau’s recent report on the number of Americans living in poverty, it’s a good time to ask, What is poverty, anyway? The Census Bureau says that in 2008, it was an annual income of $17,330 or less for a family of two adults and one child, $21,834 for a family of four with two children, with additional increases for larger families.

Where in the country can a family of four keep a roof over its head and food on the table for $22,000 a year, before taxes, and still having something left over for health care and transportation? In 2007, EPI took a detailed look at basic costs in different parts of the country and built the Basic Family Budget Calculator, which assembled the costs of basic housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities in different regions of the country. Besides offering detailed data on how much costs vary across rural and urban areas and different geographic regions, the calculator shows that poverty thresholds are too low just about everywhere.

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