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Redefining poverty in the United States

Volunteers prepare food at a food distribution for the poor inside of a church in the South Bronx on March 10, 2021 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Volunteers prepare food at a food distribution for the poor inside of a church in the South Bronx on March 10, 2021 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The poverty line is a historic relic.

And yet, that line determines who gets food stamps. Medicaid. And housing subsidies.

“We make these programs difficult to get and we don’t provide a lot of assistance because we view this as an individual failure,” Mark Robert Rank says. “There’s something wrong with the person, they need to get their life together.”

And if you think you’re immune to experiencing poverty, think again.

“Between the ages of 20 and 75, two-thirds of Americans will experience at least one year below the official poverty line, which is pretty conservative, and three quarters will experience either poverty or very near poverty,” Mark Robert Rank adds.

Today, On Point: What would happen if we redefined poverty? Not as a line — but, as being impoverished of support?


Find a poverty risk calculator here.


Guests

Mark Robert Rank, professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis. Author of Chasing the American Dream: Understanding the Dynamics that Shape Our Fortunes. Co-author of Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty.

Amy Glasmeier, professor of economic geography and regional planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Co-creator of the Living Wage Calculator. (@DrAmyGlasmeier)

Kai Sinclair, spiritualist, currently navigating homelessness.

Also Featured

Violet Carter, resident of Louisa, VA.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.