- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Number games with the federal poverty wage

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on October 31, 1999 at 18:05:13:

I know Barry Stoller doesn't care for number games, but I think this is worth considering. I just read in the newspaper the otehr day that the poverty line in America is 16,600 dollasrs for a family of 4. I started thinking about what a family in Boston can buy for that much.

Rents in Boston are high. It's generally very difficult or near-impossible to find a two-person apartment for under 1000 bucks a month. in most neighborhoods they don't exist. Everyone I've spoken to backs this up, but I also have more reliable sources. I worked for habitat for Humanity, which builds low income housing, one spring, and as part of this job I spoke to teh Boston Housing Authroity, which stated that most apartments in teh Boston area cost at least 1000 bucks a month, for one or two people. We're not talking fancy areas like the Back Bay, but rather citywide. Also, i spoke to a man once whose Army epsnsion wasn't enough to find an apartment- and I know the army pays pretty well. Now, you may argue that it is possible to find a very cheap, dilapidated apartment in Roxbury somewhere for under 1000 bucks. Yes, that's probably true, but 1)it will take some effort to find,2) it will probably not be in good condition and 3)has anyone considered that it is difficult in teh first place to squeeze 4 people into a 1-or 2- person place.

But OK, let's say you find the absolute bottom of the barrel, a two-bedroom place in a cheap neighborhood, and squeeze 4 people in for $750 a month. That's 9,000 bucks a year, plus 200 bucks a month for utility bills, bringing you up to $ 11,400. Let's say both parents work and the kids are in school. You probably can't afford a car, so we'll say you take the train and a bus to school/work and back, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year. (Most peopel can't simply take the train to where they want to go). It's 1.70 roundtrip for the train, 1.20 for teh bus. So that's about 3.00 roundtrip, times 4 people, times 250, or 3,000 bucks fro transportation, bringing us up to 14,400. Let's say you do laundry once a week for four bucks a pop (a stretch, for four people....) that brings us up to 14,600, leaving 2,000 dollars left. Assuming you have NO expenses otehr than food (no discretionary purchases, no health care, etc. which is totally unrealistic) that leaves us with 500 dollars per person per year, or about ten dollars a week for food. how well can someone live in America on 10 bucks a week?

And remember, we're not talking about the poorest of teh poor, minimum wage earners here. We're talking about a family that makes teh Federal poverty line. i hope thsi answers Gees' question about what poverty in America means in an absolute sense.

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