The federal government now considers a family of four in New York City to be poor if its pre-tax income is below $37,900.Even with full medical coverage.A couple of consequences of distorting the understanding of poverty jump out at me. First, it means more government transfers to people who aren't truly in need. Second, it further expands the entitlement mentality in our nation
The calculation helps explain why newly revised Census Bureau figures hike the number of poor Americans to 49 million as of last year, further widening an already yawning gap between ordinary perceptions of poverty and how the government sees it.
This breathtaking number begs the question: What does it mean to be “poor” in the United States?
To the average American, the word “poverty” means significant material hardship and need. It means lack of a warm, dry home, recurring hunger and malnutrition, no medical care, worn-out clothes for the children. The mainstream media reinforce this view: The typical TV news story on poverty features a homeless family with kids living in the back of a van.
But poverty as the federal government defines it differs greatly from these images. Only 2 percent of the official poor are homeless. According to the government’s own data, the typical poor family lives in a house or apartment that’s not only in good repair but is larger than the homes of the average non-poor person in England, France or Germany.
The typical “poor” American experiences no material hardships, receives medical care whenever needed, has an ample diet and wasn’t hungry for even a single day the previous year. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the nutritional quality of the diets of poor children is identical to that of upper middle class kids.
In America, about 80 percent of poor families have air conditioning, nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV, half have a computer and a third have a wide-screen LCD or plasma TV.
All these government statistics were based on the Census Bureau’s old definition of poverty. The new definition, released last week, stretches that gap between common-sense and government perspectives even further.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Poverty. When words lose their meaning.
Here's an interesting article by Robert Rector on the federal government's definition of poverty. It distorts and corrupts what the word means.