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2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines Essay

2726 words - 11 pages

Taking a tour of any historical or famous American’s home provides a sobering window to the past in several ways. While some give off a sense of luxury of a bygone period of their past, it doesn’t take long to realize these dwellings lacked the basic amenities – hot water, plumbing, and electricity. To ponder the vast and incredible improvements that America has achieved over the last century would easily amaze these historic figures. Today it is possible for the poor in America to live at a standard that previous generations of similar means simply could not afford. The level of comfort poor Americans experience in today’s society far exceeds that of prior generations, creating a class that have no clear incentive to improve their economic standing.
While this is indeed an accomplishment of our society, it has also created an unintended side effect -- a percentage of our working-age population no longer work for a living. “Poor” in America was defined in the early 1960’s by the US Census Bureau as “individuals with pre-tax income below the Poverty Threshold” (What). The “Poverty Threshold” in turn was calculated by the Secretary of Social Security as “3 times the average annual cost of food for subsistence of an individual, based on Department of Agriculture estimates.” This same formula is the basis for contemporary poverty statistics after corrections for inflation are added. Using this formula, the poverty line has gone from an estimated $3000 in the mid 1950s for a family of four to $23,050 as of 2012. One out of every four Americans was at, or below, the poverty line in the mid 1950’s. That number dropped significantly through the 1960’s and bottomed out at 11% in the early 1970’s, before increasing slowly to the present-day rate of 16%.
Given these statistics, it seems if the poverty line is calculated identically, its denizens would have a similar makeup, living in roughly the same low standard of existence, relative to those above the line. That is decidedly not the case. During an interview conducted by US News with Sasha Abramsky, “a freelance journalist and lecturer in the university writing program at the University of California–Davis,” Abramsky discussed the definition of poverty (Carlock). She insightfully “identify[ed] its causes and address[ed] the problem” by comparing poverty in India to poverty in America (Carlock). In India, the poverty is “absolute” and obvious. There are people that “literally have no food to eat” and “not a dime to their name” (Carlock). She goes on to state that defining poverty in America is more difficult because “we don’t actually have mass starvation” (Carlock). Therefore, it is more focused on not a “lack of basic necessities” but more a lack of “security,” the “uncertainty as to where you’re going to get food,” and “how you’re going to pay your most basic bills” (Carlock). These all factor into the annual statistical analysis report know as the poverty report. This report...

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