June 13, 2019
How the U.S. Government Decides Who is In Poverty and Why That Method Is Flawed
A recent policy proposal is seeking to change the way the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is measured. The proposed change would lower the already low income- eligibility cutoffs for federal programs, such as Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP,reducing or eliminating assistance for many individuals and families.
This means many New Yorkers who are currently considered poor would no longer qualify to participate in these public assistance programs.
The Department of Agriculture’s 1955 Household Food Consumption Survey determined that families of three or more spent about one-third of their after-tax income on food. The poverty threshold was then created, which set poverty as three times the cost of the Economy Food Plan.
Since then, this measure has been updated yearly based on the Consumer Price Index, which considers price changes and inflation in the economy, but does not consider changes in the general standard of living.
Additionally, this measure fails to take into account the cost of necessities like child care, transportation, and taxes into account.
A family of four needs to earn less than $25,750 a year to meet the federal poverty threshold. This is $2,146 a month.
The poverty line is already below what is needed to raise a family, and the Trump Administration’s proposal puts at risk the livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers by limiting their access to critical assistance programs. Read more about the proposal here.
Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. Keeping Track Online Database: Children Covered by Medicaid, SNAP (Food Stamps), Child Care Voucher Utilization for All Children. https://data.cccnewyork.org/
U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Tables B25064, B25070, B25071
Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Poverty Guidelines.
Economic Policy Institute, Child Care Costs in the United States – New York. https://www.epi.org/child-care-costs-in-the-united-states/#/NY
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditures for the New York Metropolitan Area: 2016-2017, Table 3004. https://www.bls.gov/regions/new-york-new-jersey/news-release/consumerexpenditures_newyorkarea.htm