Poverty in 2021 looks different than in 1964 – but the US hasn't changed how it measures who's poor
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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.
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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