Poverty in 2021 looks different than in 1964 – but the US hasn't changed how it measures who's poor - Deepstash
The US war on poverty

In 1964, US President Johnson declared war on poverty. He stated that the wealthiest nation on Earth should be able to beat it.

Yet, up to that point, the US had no official measure of poverty and no statistics on its scope, form or changing nature.



Poverty refers to not having enough money to buy necessities such as food, shelter and clothing, to maintain a minimally adequate life.

In the mid-60s, the government drew up an official method for counting poor people: It examined the annual costs to purchase a minimally adequate diet for a certain sized family, then multiplied that number by three—one third for food expenses and two thirds for all other costs. 


  • Most analysts believe that the official poverty line is very conservative as today's families must spend more on things other than food. For example, since the 1960s, housing costs have increased by 800%.
  • Some sceptics believe that the multiplier should be raised to four or more.
  • In 2011, taking into account the differences in the cost of living across the country, an alternative poverty measurement standard was developed.
  • The EU defines poverty as the percentage of the population whose income is less than half of the median income.


To solve a problem, you need to understand its scope. Inaccurate measurements, such as the federal poverty line, can minimise the extent of a country's poverty level. Research shows that approximately 60% of Americans will live below the poverty line for at least one year of adulthood.

To win the battle against poverty, we must first recognise the poor before we can hope to win the fight against poverty.



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