Skip to main content

Poverty Numbers Expected To Rise - Do They Tell the Whole Story?

US-Census-ACSLogoGenerally at this time of year, the story turns to "Poverty Day," the day when the newest statistics from the American Community Survey show changes in the Federal Poverty Level. While the stats won't be released until late September this year, reports indicate that we will see a statistically significant increase in the number of people "living in poverty," that is, below the Federal Poverty Level.

However, the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is not the same as a measurement of all people who are struggling in the United States. The FPL was created in 1965 by Mollie Orshansky, who developed the estimate using the Department of Agriculture’s “economy food plan,” which provided a food budget for families to prevent starvation on a temporary or emergency basis.

Orshansky modified the food plan for different family sizes and multiplied the budget for each family size by three, since one-third of household income was spent on food. Though in later years, Orshansky advocated for stronger and more accurate poverty measures, her calculation, adjusted for inflation, became the FPL we use today. In 2009, the FPL for a family of four is $22,050.

However, food now consumes a smaller share of a family’s budget than it did in 1965. Increased housing costs, not to mention child care and healthcare costs that were not part of a 1965 budget, have changed family spending to the point where three times the amount spent on food is not enough to cover all expenses. Furthermore, the FPL was designed to apply to a family’s after-tax income, but today is applied to their before-tax income, which means the family has even less money available to spend. Finally, the FPL remains a fixed amount throughout the continental United States, even though living costs vary widely.

What does this have to do with the poverty numbers? The number of people living in poverty in the US (which is expected to be at least 12.7%) only shows the number of people living below the outdated FPL. In Pennsylvania in 2007, about 9% of households fell below the FPL, but 21% of households actually earned less than what they need at a minimum to support their families. So 12.7% actually underestimates the number of those earning less than what they need, which in turn undermines the ability to locate and serve families in crisis. In other words, when the poverty numbers are released, remember that there are also families who are being overlooked that are in need.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Are You Registered to Vote?

As we get closer to the November elections, Google searches on how to register are increasing, which begs the question: Are you registered? Do you know how to sign up?

Pennsylvania and many other states require voter registration before Election Day - in Pennsylvania's case, voters must be registered one month ahead of time.  So if you recently moved, just turned 18, haven't voted in a while, or never registered before, the time to sign up is now.

PathWays PA has partnered with Rock the Vote to offer voter registration through this blog! You can fill out the form below to register or to make sure that you are registered.

Please take the time to register, and also consider pledging to vote in support of your economic values at wewontwait2016.org!

PS - click here to share a voter registration link on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!




Register Now for National Audio Conferences on Job Scheduling

From our friends at CLASP Register now for three national audio conferences on job scheduling! Job schedules matter in many ways. For all workers, it helps when an employer is responsive to a request for a needed schedule change. And far too many workers have volatile and potentially destabilizing schedules. If you don't know when you are supposed to be at work until the last minute, how do you arrange child care or transportation? If your total hours fluctuate from week to week, how do you budget for rent and food? To address these issues and emerging policy opportunities, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is hosting and sponsoring three Job Schedules Matter audio conferences.

The conferences, which are co-sponsored by the Center for Popular Democracy and the National Women's Law Center, will include comments from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman George Miller on why they introduced the Schedules that Work Act. You'll also hear from workers about th…

Register for FRAC's Federal Nutrition Program Conference Calls

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) will host two public conference calls in October. Information on the calls follows below:
Breakfast Matters - Effective Messaging: Getting Positive Press in your Community

Thursday October 11, 3 – 4 pm ET
Click here to register.
Learn tips from a national communications firm about how to place your stories with local media and receive positive press coverage for your program.

Presenters: * Jon Dickl, School Nutrition Director, Knox County Schools, Tennessee
* Amber LaCroix, BRG Communications




Afterschool Meals Matter - Community Partnerships
Wednesday, October 17, at 1:00 pm EST

Click here to register.
Learn how you can connect with a myriad of community partners, from parent groups to corporate volunteer programs, who can offer you and your program their time, energy, and support. Community partners can assist you with meal preparation, programming, outreach to increase your participation, and ultimately to help build up community support and in…