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Measuring Poverty: A New Approach C. Citro and R. Michaels (Eds.)

Constance F. Citro & Robert T. Michaels


The Social Security Administration (SSA) began publishing poverty statistics in the early 1960s, using a poverty measure developed by staff economist Mollie Orshansky (1963, 1965a). This measure had a set of poverty thresholds for different types of families that consisted of the cost of a minimum adequate diet multiplied by three to allow for other expenses. The threshold value for the base year 1963 for a family of two adults and two children was about $3,100. To determine a family’s poverty status, its resources, we defined as before-tax money income, were compared with the appropriate threshold.

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