Social Policy Blog Post 4: “Who’s poor?”

Discuss at least 2 ways poverty and unemployment are measured as well as how these measures affect pictures of poverty or unemployment.  [For example, would the poverty threshold or poverty guidelines measure higher?  How might this affect legislation regarding poverty.]

*Clarification – for 2 ways to measure unemployment, how does the federal government measure unemployment?  Who might this leave out that it should include?

Let’s start this off by saying I am poor. I Uber for income and sometimes make money singing, but I do not have a steady job. I am a student. I have ungodly amounts of debt. I am poor.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what the government thinks.

According to the text, the two ways of measuring poverty are poverty threshold and poverty guideline. The poverty threshold is more commonly known as the poverty line. Threshold tends to be higher than guideline. Threshold is used strictly for statistical purposes, while guideline is used to determine whether or not someone is eligible for federal programs like TANF and SNAP.

In my personal experience, neither one of these things takes into account debt-to-income ratio. I was divorced and co-parenting my son with minimal child support and no alimony. I was working full time and making money at a rate above the poverty line, so I didn’t qualify for any federal aid. If I’d dropped a day at work, I would have qualified! These levels of poverty exclude the working poor. Those who are trying to pay off debt, working full time, and make too much money to qualify for the things they need.

Unemployment is measureable. Anyone who doesn’t have a job is unemployed. Underemployment is not as measurable. It can mean those who are working below their skill set or education level. It can also mean those who want to work more hours than they are working.

Regarding employment, in the US a loss of a job might trigger short-term poverty. Then there is the idea of structural unemployment. Structural unemployment occurs when there are changes in the way things are done, like technological advancements in certain labor and factory jobs. These advancements create unemployment for some because the workers’ skill sets are limited.

I’ve been underemployed almost my entire working life. I’ve been college educated since 2001 and obtained my first masters degree in 2006. I’ve worked entry-level positions in non-profits. I tried to get promoted but didn’t have the “right” education. (I have a master of music.) This was during those years when I was struggling as a single parent. I understand that feeling of not being able to get ahead or even catch up because it feels like the system is set up to defeat you.

 

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