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        The Lowdown | How Many Americans Live in Poverty, and What Does That Actually Mean? Lesson Plan

        About 47 million Americans live in poverty, which means their earnings fall below the federal poverty line. This threshold was developed in the 1960s and is still used to determine if a person or family qualifies for government assistance.  Both liberals and conservatives see the poverty line as a problematic and inaccurate measure of poverty. For example, it hasn’t been updated to reflect the lack of wage growth (the minimum wage is worth less than it was in the 1960s) and is based on the assumption that average families spends a third of their income on food (no longer true). It also doesn’t take into account regional differences in the cost of living. In this Lowdown lesson, students will define the poverty line and analyze how it is used to make policy, as well as reflect on the ways the poverty line has changed over time.


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