38% of American families living below a more accurately drawn poverty line?
50 percentile (technically, mean third-quintile) family income for 2005 was
A plausible poverty line for a family of three (on the “minimum needs” table on p.44 of the 2001 book Raise the Floor) is $33,345 in 2008 dollars — if health care is otherwise covered. Add $10,000 for a 2008 family health policy and we get a plausible poverty line (as opposed to the implausible federal line computed at 3X the price of a super cheap diet) for a family of three of $43,345. (Raise’ supplies extensive explanations for its minimum needs numbers in Appendix B — its budget tables cite Solutions for Progress as their source.)
The difference between second and third quintile mean family income ($35,000, $56,000) is about $1,000 per percentile. That computes ($35,000 is 30 percentile + $8,000 more is 8 more percentile) to 38% of American families living below a believable poverty line (at least without food stamps and other helps — average family size is 3.13 persons).
I have been touting 25% as a realistic poverty line — just doubled the 12.5% official line — made a conservative fit with Raise the Floor’s doubling of official criteria (was more than doubling — being the official criteria for a family of 3) — conservative because, if anything, I expected the low income curve to be flatter than 45 degrees. It seems it was flatter than I even guessed.
Assuming I can’t find something wrong with 38% in poverty. The media continuing to report 12.5% poverty without qualification is like reporting in Columbus’ time that the world is flat — it makes no waves; but informed people know otherwise.
Moreover a possible 38% poverty line should have progressives wondering whether we are looking at more subsidized than nonsubsidized purchases of proposed health care vouchers. May it be time to consider a straightforward voucher system instead of the clunky payroll tax (to cover vouchers)-plus-mandated purchase concoction (if we must have private plans)?