My @RuralTechFund work focuses on poverty. No matter where you live, impoverished people live close to you, but you may not know a lot about it.

Consider this fundamental question -- How do we in the US determine if someone is living in poverty? And why does that matter? 1/
How do we get that number? It's based on a calculation from the 1960s. Then, the govt expected families spent 1/3 of their money on food. So, they took the USDA's lower-cost food plan and multiplied it by three. 3/
That figured to around $3000/person in the sixties. That number gets adjusted for inflation (based on the consumer price index) yearly. As you might imagine, there are some issues here... 4/
Depending on where you live, you might look at that 26K number and laugh. In many places, 26K for four people isn't just poverty; it's homelessness and starvation. Poverty doesn't exist outside of a geographic context. 5/
Alas, the poverty line is the same everywhere in the US, except for HI/AK where it's a little higher. It's the same $26k from our example if you're in suburban San Francisco or rural Graves County, KY. 6/
A lot of time has passed since the 1960s. Now, Americans only spend about 15% of their money on food. The cost of food has generally gone DOWN (although not as much with healthy food -- another discussion). But, most other things have gone up. 7/
3 big increases are the cost of housing, medical care, and education. These are all up compared to inflation, meaning the initial poverty measure doesn't account for these expenses well. There's also more variability in them based on location, intensifying the geography issue. 8/
We also have costs that didn't exist then. For instance, internet access is a necessity in the modern economy. If it wasn't before (it was), COVID has made this even more necessary now with online schooling. 9/
Another issue is this measure uses a strict definition of 'family.' It only groups persons living in the same house if they are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. It doesn't count coinhabitants, unmarried folks w/ kids from prev relationships, and many other scenarios. 10/
So, if you're a single parent raising your deceased ex-boyfriend's kids from his previous marriage, you have to be making less than ~ #13K to be in poverty, versus what would be ~$21K if you the government properly grouped you together. 11/
BIG DIFFERENCE! This scenario might sound fringe, but scenes like this represent millions of home situations for Americans.

Why is this so important? 12/
Government agencies use the poverty level to determine if you're eligible for certain things. Medicaid/Medicare, head start, food stamps, free school lunch, and so much more. Here's a good list -- it's long: 13/
A positive thing is that gov agencies don't have to use the poverty level strictly. For example, HHS specifies that you're eligible for Medicaid if your income is below 138% of the poverty level (assuming your state expanded it). 14/
However, lots of issues with access to government services remain. The US doesn't do a great job accurately assessing poverty for modern times. This problem isn't new or unknown. It's been discussed ever since the 1960s. But, why doesn't anyone do anything about it? 15/
It's worth noting people have tried. There's a ton of literature on this and even the Census Bureau has experimented with other measures, like the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which does a better job characterizing household members (but still has some flaws). 16/
But here's the core issue at stake -- one of the most closely watched statistics is the poverty rate. Any truly improved measure of poverty likely results in that number climbing. That's to say, it'll show more people living in poverty than the current stat does. 17/
A key issue with overcoming this challenge is that the problem is political. No president or congress wants their opponents to say, "Poverty went up 5% during your term". Sure, it's a different measure, but most folks only read the headlines. 18/
It would take an extreme act of servant leadership for the country to bear the burden of critically examining and changing how we measure poverty. 19/
While we wait for that, the practical thing we can do at the local and individual level is recognizing that people are falling through the gaps. This can be impacted as a local issue. 20/
Poverty charges interest. When you're poor, it puts you in situations likely to make you poorer. Can't afford to take off work and have that tooth looked at? Pay for a root canal later. Can't afford to get your AC unit serviced? Pay for a whole new one later. And, so on. 21/
Consider where you live and what poverty *actually* looks like there. Make this national issue a local one. Get connected with service organizations like food pantries and homeless shelters. 22/
If nothing else, spend some time driving around parts of town you've never been to. I bet you'll learn some things that'll interest you, and perhaps it'll inspire you to connect with folks trying to help those falling through the gaps. 23/23
One more thing -- most of us are only a few decisions away from living in poverty. The line is smaller than you think. A fear of ending up in that situation might lead you to alienate folks who are in it, but it can also empower you to help. The choice is yours. 24/23
You can follow @chrissanders88.
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