Relatively Poor

An interesting New Yorker article about the methods used to measure poverty. The thing they point out that I would agree with is that poverty becomes a relative term when a country gets rich enough so the basic necessities can be made available to all. It is the distribution of wealth within a country (or your community) that determines whether you are deprived since it is only when you see what other people have that you realize you don't have enough. (Again, assuming you have food to eat and a home to live in and a sense of security that comes from knowing this will be that case in the future.) In the U.S., it is the presence of great inequality of wealth that undermines people's feeling of well-being and also places them at a disadvantage relative to their fellow citizens. From the article:

Since relative deprivation confers many of the disadvantages of absolute deprivation, it should be reflected in the poverty statistics. A simple way to do this would be to classify a household as impoverished if its pre-tax income was, say, less than half the median income—the income of the household at the center of the income-distribution curve. In 2004, the median pre-tax household income was $44,684; a poverty line based on relative deprivation would have been $22,342. (As under the current system, adjustments could be made for different family sizes.)

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