Federal poverty guidelines show that a person who makes less than $11,490 lives in poverty. For a household of two people it’s $15,510, for three it is $19,530, for four $23,550, and so on.
Despite these awfully low standards as to what constitutes living in poverty, a quick look at Plainfield’s census data will show a poverty rate of 16.8% according to the federal poverty threshold.
Not living in poverty, however, does not mean an individual is earning a “living wage,” particularly in some parts of the country. In fact, while the need to raise the federal poverty requirements has long-existed, Legal Services of New Jersey recently asserted that, due to the higher cost of living, New Jerseyans should be considered poor up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Using a more modest 200% figure, in the LSNJ 2013 “Poverty Benchmarks” report, they determine that a full quarter of NJ residents would live in poverty. In the cities of Lakewood, Paterson, Camden, Passaic, Paterson, Trenton, and Newark would all have majority poor populations – along with others not mentioned, for sure.
Do the math yourself – 200% of the poverty limits listed in the first paragraph of this article still make it hard to get by anywhere in New Jersey.
MIT seems to have the most comprehensive report on a living wage nationwide. It happens to be broken down to individual municipalities, Plainfield included. While I don’t think they have the expertise to understand the cost of living in each municipality as well as a local study could, here are their findings.
This chart, which includes living expenses (including modest allowances for “other”), mocks the new $8.25 minimum wage, despite being tied to inflation, as some sort of grand victory. Here, it’s clear that both the minimum wage and the ridiculous poverty thresholds are far lower than they should be, especially once children are involved. The FLP creates an ocean of difference between poverty money and the money it takes to really get by.
We’ll explore this much more later.
There was a council agenda fixing session tonight with a few interesting items. I could not make the meeting but encourage you to read about it at Plaintalker II. There is a regular meeting next Tuesday.