Statistically Speaking: The Bottom Line on Poverty

Blaine Harden

The poverty line, or poverty threshold, is the minimum amount of money deemed necessary to meet the basic needs of an individual or family and is adjusted yearly to reflect higher cost of living. It typically is half of what a family in the United States actually needs to provide for itself.

In recent years the threshold has not been adjusted as high as the rise in the cost of living and one result is more people living in a state of financial crisis that could theoretically push them over the edge to homelessness.

Once an individual or family falls at or below the threshold, they are considered living in poverty and then qualify for government programs designed to offset poverty. Economists suggest without these programs in place, the poverty level, which hovers around 15% (after assistance) would be nearly double that.

Poverty is also the worry of living paycheck to paycheck, wondering if there will be enough to cover the bills, and if not what will be sacrificed to make ends meet. The constant fear of something big happening, like the car breaking down, or sickness or injury that will have bills piling up.

According to either definition, there are approximately 92 million people currently living in poverty in the United States. Over half of the population will know poverty during their lifetime. Poverty rates have increased at twice the rate of US population and poverty among the elderly has increased by 20%

The US is the 17th country, of 19, with major income disparity and poverty and also has the highest poverty rate of any country in the developed world.

In 2014, the number of people receiving federal government assistance in the form of the 3 major programs, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Supplemental Security Income and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps) hit an all-time high of 23.1% and in the year 2013, there were actually more people receiving welfare than there were full-time workers.

The numbers are disheartening for solving the problem of poverty in America. Yet we look at what is spent in Foreign Aid vs. what is spent on federal aid to our nation and wonder why our citizens receive less help from the federal government. Case in point, the city of Detroit receives less federal aid from the US Government than 32 other foreign countries.

Something needs to change in big ways to change these numbers. That’s the bottom line really.