More than 15 million Americans are unemployed, homelessness has increased by 50 percent in some cities, and 38 million people are receiving food stamps, more than at any time in the program’s almost 50-year history. The rise in poverty rates from 2009 show the biggest year-to-year increase in recorded history. An additional 5.7 million people were officially poor in 2009. That would bring the total number of people with incomes below the federal poverty threshold to more than 45 million.
The poverty rate will hit 15 percent — up from 13.2 percent in 2008. The current formula for setting the federal poverty line — unchanged since 1963 — takes the cost of food for an individual or family and multiplies the number by three, under the assumption that people spend one-third of their incomes putting meals on the table. While the formula may have been a good way to estimate a subsistence cost of living in the early 1960s, experts say food now represents only one-eighth of a typical household budget, with expenses such as housing and child care putting increasing pressure on struggling families.
In addition, the official measure fails to account for regional differences in the cost of housing, it doesn’t include medical expenses or transportation, and at $22,000 for a family of four, the poverty line is considered by many to be simply too low.
However, the Obama administration sees the Census Bureaus current measure as problematic due to fail to recognize the benefits of at least $100 billion in 2009 stimulus money spent for low-income families. Even so, as those direct subsidies and other job-creating federal funds are phased out, advocates expect the poverty rate will shoot up again next year, when the data is in for 2010.
Title: Collapse in Living Standards in America: More Poverty By Any Measure
Author: Christine Vestal
Publication Source: Global Research, July 14, 2010
Other Sources: IPS News, Rawstory, Census.gov
Student Researcher: Danielle Frisk, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Heather Flynn, Sonoma State University