Thursday, July 24, 2008

New York points the way

Cara Buckley's report, "City Refines Formula to Measure Poverty Rate" (The New York Times, July 14, 2008, spotlights the inadequacy of the current, so-called "federal poverty line."

Most people don't realize how the standard was developed or what it was based upon. The poverty measure grew out of a 1955 study that showed that poor Americans spent roughly 1/3 of their after-tax income on food. Since the 1960s, the federal government has estimated its poverty line by tripling the annual cost of groceries for individuals and families of various sizes.

Obviously, the standard is inadequate and grossly incomplete.

Thanks to the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city recently unveiled a new standard for determining and measuring poverty levels. The New York test factors in costs such as housing, child care, clothing and other expenses not included in the formula used by the federal government. The plan also points up the fact that the cost of living varies from location to location across the nation.

So what?

Bottom line: there are many more Americans living in poverty today than the federal government recognizes in its calculations. Frankly, no surprise to those of us who work in poor areas of urban America.

Take the time to read the entire report by clicking on the title line above.

Let me know what you think after you've read the story. We have lots of work to do.



Anonymous said...

Isn't it time to consider a revocation of reproductive rights for those unable to provide for their offspring?

Anonymous said...

Uuummm ... setting aside pesky constitutional or human rights issues ... not everyone can predict when they have children they will not be able to support them. Although too much poverty is generational, much is not, but is the result of the working poor who were barely making it (but were making it) falling into the ranks of the truly impoverished. So, human rights, constitutional, not to mention technological, issues aside, there's no way to determine who can't provide for their children, unless I guess you're willing to indulge the assumption that people and their circumstances can't change.

On a whole other level - thank God we can't (or don't) make such judgments! One whole side of my family came from "poor white trash" that would probably not have been allowed to reproduce under your scheme. Their descendants have largely done quite well for themselves, however. Humans! So pesky with their ups and downs and changeability.

Anonymous said...

The federal poverty guidelines are antiquated and badly in need of replacement. You can just look at them and do the math and figure out that a family of four cannot make it on $20,000 a year. And isn't "not making it," that is, not being able to afford life's necessities, the definition of "poverty"?

Anonymous said...

Hey 1:50pm anon,
How did the family get to four? Stupidity or perhaps a lack of control? Perhaps they knew the government would provide for their family because they most certainly would know they were not able to. So we come to ..let's have government subsidized children. Count me in with anon 1,- limits should be imposed on those who act impulsively, without planning for their children's welfare. I'm not advocating abortion, but I can see the day when other measures would be appropriate - perhaps that time is now.

Karen said...

anon 12:15 pm and anon 6:27 pm...

Truly, truly terrifying.

Think, people, think.

Anonymous said...

Karen, is this a sacred cow?

Jeffaroo said...

This post reminds me of a family I know. He's a carpenter (no, really) with a wife and 5 kids. They live in a small and unfinished home. The house isn't pretty. In fact, it's darn shackish (is that a word?). The father makes far less than $20,000 a year but they get along fine. He once told me that every stitch of clothing they have has been given to them by friends and family. They aren't ashamed of that -- but proud. They're also the nicest, most Godly people I've ever met in my life. In a way, I envy their simple lifestyle and rejection of stuff and things. Our society tells us we need and are often entitled to stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:15 and 6:27:

Attempting to decide who should reproduce and which lives were worth living has indeed been tried before - it was called Nazi Germany. While their considerations were more about race and mental conditions (illness or retardation), they tried to decide who should live and who should not, and who should get to reproduce. What astonishes me the most is that most people who would propose such a thing are usually (very) conservative. They don't want the government to tell them how to run their business or to take any of their earnings in taxes, but they want the government to tell some people they can't reproduce. "Sacred cow"? No. Just aksing for a little thought about humanity, consequences and consistency.

Karen said...

Thank you, Anon 10:19. That's it exactly.

That anyone could even ask the 'sacred cow' question tells me how skewed is his or her thinking. It's extremely unsettling and tells me how difficult it is for human beings ever, ever to get it -- unless they're the ones who are hurting.

PS The other place forced family planning by the government is being tried is Communist China. Care to move there, anyone?

Chris said...

Liberals measure compassion by how many people get welfare; conservatives measure it by how many people no longer need it--Rush Limbaugh