Most people who care about measuring poverty—academics, policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and the like—agree that the way the federal government currently determines who is poor and who is not doesn’t work. The so-called “poverty line” was determined in the mid-1960s by calculating the amount of money it costs to buy a basic basket of food and then multiplying that amount by three. Each year the line is updated to account for inflation. (The current poverty line is $10,830 for a single person and $22,050 for a family of four.) If a person lives in a household whose income is less than that amount, he is considered poor. If the household’s income is that amount or more (even by one dollar), he is not poor. The measure does not consider other living costs besides food, and the federal poverty line is the same whether a person lives in New York City or McAlester, Okla."
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