Measuring Poverty

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The question "How do we measure poverty?" has wrapped within it all the issues that are presented when considering the question "What is Poverty?" Is poverty an income issue, an asset issue, or both? Does poverty look differently from place to place?

Despite the imperfect nature of measuring poverty, we use the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to describe how many people in a given area are poor at a given time, to document progress in tackling poverty, to make comparisons between places, or to determine eligibility for many state and federal programs. But what aspects of poverty does this rate - or any numerical description - leave out?

Unit 4 - Measuring Poverty Overview (PDF)

Unit 4 - Measuring Poverty PowerPoint Slides (PDF)


Video Clips

Suggested/Selected Resources: Books & Films

  • Poverty in America: A Handbook (John Iceland)
  • Measuring Poverty in America (United States Congress – House of Representatives)
  • Measuring Poverty: A New Approach (National Research Council)
  • The Measure of America, 2010-2011: Mapping Risks and Resilience (Kristen Lewis)
  • A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Ruby Payne)
  • One Nation Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All (Mark Robert Rank)
  • So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America (Peter Edelman)
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