Poverty line threshold is off

The government’s recently released poverty guidelines are unrealistic.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently reported a cost of living increase of 11 percent for Minneapolis families. For those struggling in what is still a sputtering economy, this is not welcome news, and remains difficult to rationally square with the federal government’s recently released poverty guidelines.

According to those guidelines, a family of four — defined as two adults and two children — is at the poverty threshold with an annual income of merely $23,050. For the single adult with two children it is $19,090, or just under $10 per hour. These numbers figure into assistance at both the federal and state level from programs such as Medicaid and the Minnesota Family Assistance Program. While raising the threshold to meet changing population data and rising costs of basic consumer needs is important, these numbers, as always, remain outdated.

According to experts from the National Center for Children in Poverty and the Economic Policy Institute, the poverty threshold should be at least twice that, published by the federal government. This puts the actual threshold of an annual income over $40,000 for a family of four.

The poverty threshold serves another purpose beyond establishing benchmarks for assistance. Federal poverty guidelines also teach us that any call for those in the bottom 20 percent of income to pay a higher share in taxes is just as preposterous as the poverty threshold itself.

The expectation that a family of four living on the edge of economic collapse could both pay more in taxes and live on an income that would shock most Americans is the true call for a greater understanding of poverty and a greater urgency to end it.