Published on October 9, 2009
Poverty in the U.S.A.
Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. Absolute poverty [as] a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to social services. -- 1995 United Nations W orld Summit on Social Development Relative poverty refers to a set standard which is relative to time and space. People’s poverty are compared to the society in which they live, and not some fixed point.
„ ... the real explanation of why the poor are where they are is that they made the mistake of being born to the wrong parents, in the wrong section of the country, in the wrong industry, or in the wrong racial or ethnic group. Once that mistake has been made, they could have been paragons of will and morality, but most of them would never even have had a chance to get out of the other America .” Michael Harrington’s The Other America (1962) influences a nation (specifically, the political elite)
Development of the Poverty Measure in the U.S.A. The War on Poverty declared in a State of the Union Address by Lyndon Johnson in 1964: „ Let us carry forward the plans and programs of John Fitzgerald Kennedy--not because of our sorrow or sympathy, but because they are right. .. Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope--some because of their poverty, and some because of the ir color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity. This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. ”
The poverty thresholds were originally developed in 1963-1964 by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration. Orshansky took a hypothetical average family spending one third of its income on food, and assumed that it had to cut back on its expenditures sharply. She multiplied this amount by three. According to Orshansky, if a family’s annual income was below three times the annual cost of basic groceries, they were poor. This is called “Mollie’s Measure.” "if it is not possible to state unequivocally 'how much is enough,' it should be possible to assert with confidence how much, on an average, is too little." – M. Orshansky
The 2009 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia Persons in family Poverty guideline 1 $10,830 2 14,570 3 18,310 4 22,050 5 25,790 6 29,530 7 33,270 8 37,010 For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.
„ Since 1960, the number of people below poverty has not exceeded the 2008 figure of 39.8 million people .” Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty08.html
Poverty Rate of People by Race, Age (under 18 years old), and Family Relationship (i.e. Families with Female Householder, no Husband present) for 200 8 Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/poverty08.html Race All People The Young (under 18 years old) Families with Female Householder, No Husband present All races 1 3.2 % 1 9 % 28 .7 % White alone, non-Hispanic 8.6 % 10. 6 % 21. 5 % Black alone 2 4.7 % 34. 7 % 40.5 % Asian alone 1 1.8 % 1 4.6 % 1 6 % Hispanic of any race 2 3.2 % 30 .6% 40.5 %
Who Did Not Have Health Insurance in America in 2008? (%) Source: U.S. Census. In 2008, 15.4%, or 46.2 million people in America, did not have health insurance. White, non-Hispanic 10.4 Income Less than $25,000 24.5 Black 19.5 Income $25,000 to $49,999 21.1 Hispanic 32.1 Worked Full-Time in Past Year 17 Age 18 to 34 26.9 Worked Part-Time in Past Year 23.4 Foreign Born, Not a Citizen 43.8
Why are some people poor? Individual explanations Focus on characteristics of the individual, including their psychology (present-time orientation) and their biology (low I.Q.). Culture of Poverty explanations Poor were not born with deficient qualities. Instead, they acquired deficient values via inter-cultural transmission. Structural explanations Focus on characteristics of the society, including form of economy and political situation. In America, capitalism, deindustrialization, and dominant attitudes toward the poor .
Who was Mollie Orshansky?
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SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010, Report P60, n. 238, Table B-2, pp. 68-73.
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If a family's total income is less than the official poverty threshold for a family of that size and composition, then they are considered to be in poverty.
This report presents data on income and poverty in the United States based on information collected in the 2014 and earlier CPS ASEC.
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