Census Poverty Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story

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Census Poverty Numbers Don’t Tell the Whole Story

By - September 10, 2015

When the Census releases new data next week about the poverty rates in our state, it is important to understand that the numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the poverty rate is useful to track, the sad reality is that there are far more Washingtonians struggling to become economically secure than the numbers reflect.

In fact, the income required for people to barely scrape by is a lot higher than the income that is considered the poverty line. A family of three in Washington state needs to earn between $48,121 and $61,989 per year depending on where they live in order to afford the basic necessities – in other words, between two and three times the federal poverty line of $19,790 (1).

Indeed, despite improving employment numbers, many Washingtonians are still having difficulty putting food on the table or a roof over their head through no fault of their own (as last year’s Census data demonstrated). So while the focus next week will be on poverty, policymakers should nevertheless focus on creating policies that focus on more than just the numbers reflected by the Census poverty line. They must find solutions that take into account what it really takes for families to make ends meet in our state.

Stay tuned to hear our take on the new numbers out next week and policies to support the economic security of all families in Washington state. And click here to learn more about the MIT Living Wage Calculator.

(1) Living wage and typical family expenses based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator