"U.S. Plans New Measure for Poverty" http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/us/03poverty.html
Shubha Bala, associate producer
"It establishes a poverty threshold that depends on the cost of food, shelter, clothing and utilities ‘plus a little more’ for ‘a population that is not poor but is somewhat below the median.’"
Poverty measurements are a pet interest of mine, along with everything we can chalk up to the logistical challenges of aid. The U.S. has one standard federal poverty line, and a lot of assistance is based on it: food stamps and national free lunch, for example. That means a mother living in New York City and trying to raise kids on a low income has to be below the same income level as someone living in a small rural town with a lower cost-of-living, or she will be eligible for far fewer benefits.
It’s a system which is widely known to be flawed and yet has existed for 50 years. Even it’s founder, Mollie Orshansky, offered this only to be used for statistical purposes and not as a policy criterion. It looks like the government is finally doing something about it!
Two papers worth reading are the National Center for Children in Poverty’s "Measuring Income and Poverty in the United States," which is critical of U.S. poverty guidelines, and Sanjay Reddy’s academic paper, "Counting the Poor: The Truth about World Poverty Statistics" from the Socialist Register 2006.