To define poverty, according to the Census Bureau, you would need to actually commit to a mathematical equation taking into consideration how many people actually earn income in a family and how many people are actually included in the family. The Census Bureau’s Poverty Definition uses a set of money income thresholds that vary by family size and composition to detect who is poor. If a family’s total income is less than the family’s threshold, then that family, and every individual in it, is considered poor.
The terms “poor,” “poverty population,” and “below the poverty level” have been used interchangeably in the past. In recent reports, the term “poor” has been avoided for its somewhat subjective connotation. Some take issues with the definition that the Census Bureau uses because it doesn’t take into consideration the monetary value of items such as food stamps.
The way that you define poverty is subjective. You can read the government reports and try to understand them but, you know when you hear a story about a single mother holding down two part time jobs to support her four children, she is probably in poverty.
The census sums up poverty in the US by using these numbers.
|Persons per household, 2000||2.59|
|Median household income, 2004||$44,334|
|Per capita money income, 1999||$21,587|
|Persons below poverty, percent, 2004||12.7%|
In 2006, the number declined slightly, to 36.5 million people (12.3 percent of the population).
In 2004, according to this data, 12.7% of the population in the US were living below the poverty line.
What exactly does this mean?
The Heritage Foundation, who say they are ” a research and educational institute – a think tank – whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative ideas” wants you to know this
The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
- Forty-six percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- Seventy-six percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, 30 years ago, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
- The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
- Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars.
- Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
- Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- Seventy-three percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a third have an automatic dishwasher.
If this is all true, and I am in no way saying it is or is not, why is poverty even an issue? I am interpreting the thoughts of the folks at the Heritage Foundation to mean that a everyone in the USA is living well and our standards are so high the living in poverty means that you are still better than the rest of the world.
Isn’t it dangerous to assume that poverty really doesn’t exist in the USA?
Yes, it is dangerous. If the Heritage foundation’s claims are true, they may be misleading. How do we know that the people with these color TV’s and other appliances didn’t spend their entire paycheck on these items? Do we even know how they got them or how old they are?
The fact is, even if people have a car it doesn’t mean that their children have health insurance.
According the Census Bureau, there are over 8 million children without health insurance. If some of the ‘poverty people’ are living well, is it okay to punish the rest by not giving them help? What if there is a reason why they cannot work such as age or a disability?
Poverty affects everyone. The thing is, people who lived during the depression can tell you, there is a fine line between how you live and being in poverty no matter what the definition is.