Essay: Comparison of figures in 2007 and 1969 on poverty
The adjusted child poverty figures for 2007 offer an interesting comparison to 1969. The official child poverty rate in 1969 was 14.0%, the lowest official rate ever recorded. Because 1969 predated significant food stamp and Medicaid spending, the EITC, and SCHIP, the official income measure was probably a much more accurate indicator of economic well-being than it is today. Nearly 40 years later, the adjusted child poverty rate is only 26% lower than the official 1969 rate. America’s social policy has badly failed its youngest members.
Whatever the precise level of absolute poverty, in contemporary affluent societies, relative poverty is a far better indicator of the socially relevant level of economic need. A relative poverty line roughly represents, in Adam Smith’s words, the cost of “those objects that established rules of affability have rendered essential to the lowest category of individuals.” It is the level of income below which persons cannot participate in the mainstream activities of their society. As such, a relative poverty line will rise in step with a society’s standard of living rather than remaining fixed in real terms.
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