Posted by: The moderator | October 20, 2009

Measuring Suffering

courtesy Census Bureau & MSNBC

courtesy Census Bureau & MSNBC

Should the government update the formula used to measure the poverty rate? MSNBC reports on a change that would include 7 million more Americans, mostly in the northeast and the west coast. I agree that the old system is antiquated, relying solely on the price of groceries. What happens if you live in a part of the country where rent and heating bills are high? What about rising transportation costs and prescription drugs?

However, I can smell a fight brewing, particularly since there are definite winners and losers in a recalculation. Plenty of Federal money gets doled out based on poverty data. Under the National Academy of Sciences’s plan, the midwest would actually have fewer people classified as impoverished and the south wouldn’t see much benefit to the new calculation while more of their money might go to fund programs in other regions.

The policy hasn’t been changed since the 1960s for a good reason: it’s politically contentious. I’m not holding my breath on this one.

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