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Counting the PoorNew Thinking About European Poverty Measures and Lessons for the United States$
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Douglas J. Besharov and Kenneth A. Couch

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199860586

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199860586.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 August 2021

Europe’s Other Poverty Measures

Europe’s Other Poverty Measures

Absolute Thresholds Underlying Social Assistance

(p.235) 11 Europe’s Other Poverty Measures
Counting the Poor

Richard Bavier

Oxford University Press

European nations apply a “relative” poverty threshold, typically 50% or 60% of median income, that is higher than in the US, and that they also do a better job of reducing poverty. Unlike the European model, the “absolute” US poverty threshold does not increase in real value when the nation's standard of living rises, even though what we think of as living in poverty today would not have been a sign of poverty a century ago. The 1995 National Academy of Sciences report advised the United States to emulate Europe and adopt a relative, or at least a “quasi-relative,” threshold, indexed each year by changes in spending on food, clothing, and shelter between the 30th and 35th percentiles of couples with two children. Couples in this range have incomes above US$50,000 and most own their own homes. So indexing a poverty threshold to their spending on basics would tend to reflect economic gains among families who are well above what most people regard as poverty. This chapter asks: Is this the lesson about poverty measurement that the United States should learn from Europe?

Keywords:   poverty measurement, Europe, United States, poverty threshold, standard of living

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