Redefining Poverty

Statisticians try to frame the question in purely objective terms, but any answer is bound to have political overtones: Who is poor? Currently, the Government's official definition of poverty is based solely on cash income. A nonfarm family of four, for example, was considered to be poor if its annual income in 1981 was less than $9,290. This standard, however, does not take into account noncash benefits like food stamps, medical care and subsidized housing. Since 1965, the market value of those benefits has grown from $2.2 billion to more than $72 billion, and the programs account for two out of...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!