Monday, March 29, 2010

Poverty: Our Nation's New Epidemic

• A family is considered to be below the poverty line if their income is less than the threshold that the government establishes.

• Money income is determined based on the family’s wages, unemployment compensation, and social security. Capital Gains and non cash benefits are not included in the income. The income is calculated before taxes are removed.

• The threshold is the average income, according to the government, that is adequate for a family to buy necessities. The threshold was originally derived in 1963 and used food budgets and data about what families spend their money on to come up with the average threshold. There are forty-eight different thresholds that vary according to family size, family age, and what a family spends the majority of their income on.

• The most common thresholds include:
Three Person Household-$16,530.00
Four Person Household-$21,203.00
Five Person Household-$25,080.00
Six Person Household-$28,323.00
Seven Person Household-$32,233.00

• As supply and demand changes and the prices for basic needs increase, the thresholds have steadily increased from 1959. These thresholds have increased more rapidly than the average income in the United States, which is why the percentage of people below the poverty line has increased.

• According to this graph, the highest percentage of people in the United States who live below the poverty line is the age group of 11 and under.

• Poverty rates can be misleading because they represent an average over the whole population. They are also misleading because the thresholds are usually very inaccurate. The thresholds do not include crucial things like medical care and education. In reality, the threshold should me much higher, but it is not.

• In the United States African Americans and Hispanics are the highest percentages of people living below the poverty line. Approximately 22.1% of African Americans and 21.2% of Hispanics are living in poverty. Poverty rates are high for single women with children, in metropolitan and urban areas, and in the southern portion of the United States. In fact, there is a poverty line drawn through the United States that separates the southern portion from the northern. The Midwest, western and northeastern parts of the United States have far less people living in poverty than in the South.

• The United States does not spend very much of its budget on helping these people who live in poverty. For example in 2005 only .39% of the fiscal budget was spent on aiding these deprived families.

• Although the government does not devote a lot of money to helping these families they do have poverty guidelines that determine monetary eligibility for certain programs. These programs include HHS (Children’s Health Insurance), Department of Agriculture (which provides food stamps and reduced lunches at school), Department of Energy (Weatherization Assistance), Department of Labor, and the Legal Services Corporation.

• Statistics:
-3.5% of U.S. households experience hunger.
-12.7% of Americans live below the poverty line.
-35.9 million people live below the poverty line, including 12.9 million children.
-41 billion pounds of food were wasted in one year.
-For a family of four vegetables, fruits, meat, and grain products cost approximately $590 per year.

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