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Can You Have A Guideline Without a Guide?

The federal government's definition of poverty dates back more than 45 years.  Reflecting the limited statistical data of that time, it was built on government nutritional criteria.  A game first effort, it's been indexed for inflation but has never evolved.

Given the human and societal costs of poverty, we need a better measure than we currently have to identify who needs assistance and what kind of assistance.  The National Academy of Sciences, for instance, has a proposed approach.  The NAS approach would posit far more poor persons than "official" measurements.

Another subjective approach to an objective goal is the Self-Sufficiency Standard.  Unlike the federal standard, this guideline accounts for the costs of living and working as they vary by family size and composition and by geographic location.  A possible drawback is that the Standard assumes that all adults (whether single or married) work full-time.  Self-Suffiency Standards have been developed for a number of states, including Missouri.

So while nobody's too happy about where we are, there's not a lot of movement and consensus about where we should be in terms of quantifying this important issue.


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