A Better Way to Think About Poverty

One theme running through this issue—and the H. E. Butt Foundation community survey—is the ways families experience financial hardship. Often, that gets called “poverty.”

BUT WHAT IS POVERTY?

The OFFICIAL POVERTY MEASURE (OPM), in use since 1963, starts with the cost of food. What is the cheapest possible food budget for a family? Multiply that baseline by three (which assumes food is one third of every family’s budget) and you arrive at the government definition of poverty. In 2010, the Supplemental Poverty Measure was introduced to include other costs families face and benefits they receive, but the OPM remains the official source of statistics.

In 2019, UNITED WAYS OF TEXAS calculated the real costs of survival, based on a basic household budget for every county. They called it ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income-Constained, Employed). The Texas ALICE report helps communities understand the minimum wages required to live within a budget.

So, how much money does a family of four need to take home in one year to pay the bills?

For more information, we recommend this video:

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A Better Way to Think About Poverty

How much money does a family need to pay the bills?

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68% of survey respondents said supporting people living on the margins was a top priority for their faith communities.