Poverty in the USA
The starting point could well be the figures of the United States Bureau of Labour Statistics which draw the line between poverty and deprivation at $4,000 a year (£1,428) for a family of four and $2,000 (£714) for an individual living alone. These figures do not necessarily mean cash income, but include the price of food grown by small farmers, and in 1960 nearly 10,500,000 families received less.
The line drawn between deprivation and a modest but adequate standard of living was drawn at a family income level of about $6,000 a year (£2,142). Again according to the Labour Department, in 1960 an urban family of four required between $5.036 and $7,678 a year to live adequately. More than two-fifths of the population do not earn $6000 a year.
The areas of poverty and deprivation are easily defined. Studies of the Conference of Economic Progress showed that 37.2 per cent. lived in the south; 18.3 were unemployed; 16.2 per cent. were elderly; 16.2 per cent, were non-white; and 12.1 per cent. lived on farms.
Circumstances have changed little since 1959 when two-thirds of all farm workers earned less than $1,000 (£357) and some migratory workers earned less than $500. Nearly 80 per cent. of all non-white families lived in poverty or deprivation, and about 32 per cent, earned less than $2.000. Retired couples received social security pensions of $1.500 a year but many poor people do not contribute to the scheme.