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Mollie Orshansky's Strategy to Poverty Measurement as a Relationship between Household Food Expenditures and Economy Food Plan

Hanson, Kenneth
Review of agricultural economics 2008 v.30 no.3 pp. 572-580
diet, household income, poverty, food purchasing, household expenditure, surveys, econometric models, food consumption, food prices, United States
The concept of poverty thresholds was devised in the USA as a measure of income inadequacy for families, in order to compare the well-being of children in families of different size and composition. Poverty thresholds were originally built on 2 empirical findings from food consumption research at the USDA: the 1962 Economy Food Plan, which meets the nutritional requirements of a healthy diet at minimal cost; and the 1955 Household Food Consumption survey finding that for all households of ≥2 persons, the average dollar value of food used during 1 wk accounted for one-third of after tax cash income. To calculate the poverty thresholds, equivalence scales were developed for families of different size and composition, and the average food expenditure share for all households (not just those on low incomes) was used. This article discusses the ways in which these 2 approaches have evolved over time and considers the possibility that the methods used to measure poverty thresholds should be changed. [This paper was presented at the Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting, New Orleans, LA, USA, Jan.4–6, 2008.]