Development Economics

Defining Poverty in the United States

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="336" caption="Camden, New Jersey"][/caption] People ask me all the time about whether the United States has any poor people.  When I tell them that 15-20% of the country lives below the poverty line, they can’t believe it.  That is because the federal poverty line of $22,050, which is the amount for a family of four to live reasonably, is much higher than the comparative number in other places.  This is called “absolute poverty,” and is one of the measures of poverty in the U.S.

The "absolute poverty line" is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.
The system by which the U.S. defines and measures poverty in the United States hasn’t really changed in the last half century.  There has been a lot of criticism over the way it is measured, which is based on a threshold that was defined in the 50’s.  (more…)