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Poverty thresholds are outdated

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Erin Jensen
June 11, 2010

Poverty is avoidable but inevitable throughout the world. Everyday people endure very low standards of living and fight for necessities.


Poverty is a question of resources, a comparison between those who have and those who have not. It is interpreted as a social issue but battled as an economic problem. In the world, poverty is media driven: no country has a problem unless its stomach-distorted children are displayed across CNN. Poverty is truly a question of civilization and how it uses it resources, vast and minute, to better the lives of all citizens.


Here in the United States, people are living in poverty and not only is the issue not well addressed but the ways of measuring and aiding the impoverished are inadequate. Poverty could be better addressed in the United States if policies considered today’s family dynamics, priorities and out-of-pocket costs when figuring who falls into poverty.


The poverty scales, measures and thresholds continue to use data from the 1960s, when the measure was first created. Back then, families spent most of their money on food, had one automobile per family and divorce was barely heard of. Today, our standards and priorities of living have changed. Child care, transportation, utilities, food and out-of-pocket health care are basic necessities of life, yet the measures, scales and thresholds that place people into the class of poverty do not include any of these.


Thus, our policies inadequately place people in and out of poverty. To get a better understanding of income in all families, common necessities along with the federal Earned Income tax need to be deducted from their salaries. The end result should be their “actual” income used to place families in the right class and program.


Erin Jensen wrote this as part of Washington Seminar at Janesville Parker High School.

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