[Hpn] Poverty - US Government may reconsider definition - Your definition?

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Sun, 25 Nov 2001 13:43:10 -0800

In your opinion, what would constitute a fair definition of "poverty"? http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302 6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/751654926/_k/s5fG03PbAKTtARt5 FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Nov 23 2001 JUST HOW MANY IN POVERTY? GOVERNMENT LOOKS AT NEW WAYS OF COUNTING By GENARO C. ARMAS Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal agencies are exploring new ways to measure poverty, a politically delicate endeavor that could boost the number of Americans considered to be among the poorest of the poor. Part of the problem, critics say, is that the decades-old method of determining how many people are in poverty is outdated, and does not take enough account of factors such as skyrocketing child care and housing costs. Nor does it consider non-cash aid such as food stamps that some poor families get. A recent Census Bureau report found that millions more Americans would be considered impoverished if test measurements that include some of the disputed elements were used. Federal agencies have been studying the topic for years. Officials with the Office of Management and Budget, the department spearheading the study, said it could take years more to make any change official. Beyond record-keeping purposes, revisions could affect the amount of money poured into funding for federal programs that aid the poor, such as Medicaid. It could also change the way such funding is distributed. Wary politicians and policy-makers were proceeding cautiously even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks rose to the top of the agenda. ``Making a change just raises a host of political issues that we cannot get past,'' said University of Wisconsin professor Thomas Corbett, one of 40 academics and advocacy group members who last year urged the government to make changes. The Census Bureau keeps the government's official poverty statistics. In September, it announced the poverty rate dropped from 11.8 percent in 1999 to 11.3 percent in 2000, its lowest level in over a quarter century. A person is considered living in poverty if his household income before taxes falls below varying income thresholds. In 2000, for instance, a family of four was impoverished if their household made $17,603 or less. That poverty threshold is based on a formula first established in the 1960s and updated every year to account for inflation. The Department of Health and Human Services in part uses these thresholds to set guidelines for federal agencies to determine eligibility for programs that aid the poor. The census report found that the national poverty rate in 1999 could be as high as 15 percent if some of those disputed costs were taken into account. Nearly everyone agrees that, overall, poverty rates have declined over the past decade thanks to the once healthy economy and welfare reform. But critics contend that today's measurements don't adequately consider expenses such as day care or electricity bills. Poverty measures paint a particularly misleading picture of the status of working mothers, said Heidi Hartmann, president of the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research. The poverty rate for a family headed by an unmarried woman, or without a husband living at home, was 28 percent last year, down from 40 percent a decade ago. Bonnie Chambers and her husband have four children. The couple brought in $22,600 in gross income, falling just below the poverty threshold in 2000 for a six-person household, $23,528. While they qualify for assistance to help pay the rent for their three-bedroom apartment in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood, Wash., Chambers said she still struggles to find enough money for food. Americans don't like to think about the poor and ``I think that as America rebuilds, that this is our best time to take care of our weakest link,'' she said. Corbett and other academics agree with many conservatives that non-cash benefits such as food stamps should be added to income received by families. Poverty should not be measured strictly by income level, but by physical characteristics that would otherwise go unnoticed, said Robert Rector, senior researcher with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Those traits include how much food a family eats, and how many televisions are in the home. Rector noted 1995 Census Bureau statistics that showed that about half of those considered poor had two or more color TVs at home, and that 84 percent say they have enough food to eat. ___ On the Net: Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov AP-CS-11-23-01 1529EST Received Id AP101327D56EEBE5 on Nov 23 2001 14:31 END FORWARD **In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.** Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People: *************************************************************** Over 10,000 articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people Been Homeless? Then JOIN! EMAIL Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy ***************************************************************