The poverty threshold for a family of four is just over $22,000. I sat down with my budget (on Mint.com– highly recommend Mint) to see how far $22K would get my family.
On $22,000/year, which is $1,833/month or $423/week, we could pay our mortgage, buy groceries, and keep our lights on and water running. That’s about it.
I’m not sure how we would even earn $22,000 because we couldn’t afford transportation to work. There’s just no money left for anything else. Not for health insurance, not for birthday gifts, not for any of the host of minor emergencies my family has faced in the last six months, including, but unfortunately not limited to, child birth (not really an emergency but feels like one on the budget), a flooded house, replacing water heater, replacing garbage disposal, and a flat tire.
Oh, and I just realized something…my kids would be running around naked.
“Sorry, Harper and Griffin, I forgot to include clothes in the budget. Would you rather have lights on and be naked or be clothed in the dark?”
In poverty I couldn’t watch the Daily Show, buy books, buy music, buy a gallon of bubbles for the kids, take my wife out for a meal, afford the hosting expense of this website, afford Internet at all, and afford any bump in the road whatsoever.
I work with an amazing group of people in Muncie who have pulled together to fight local poverty, and they often talk about the Tyranny of the Moment – not being able to see beyond the current crisis to make good long term decisions or even have the option of making a good long term decision. With an income of $22,000/year, we would be slave to the Tyranny of the Moment.
In poverty, we could survive until something, anything, went wrong or broke. And things always go wrong and get broke. People too.
How long could you live in poverty?
There are a couple of things I should point out.
1) I realize that my family would be eligible for assistance with housing, utilities, food, etc, if we were living in poverty. However with all of the political talk about cuts to these programs, I would be really nervous that we could lose that assistance. Then what?
2) I live in Indiana. Life in Indiana is way cheaper than a lot of places across the country. I point this out because I could make $22,000 go a lot farther in Muncie, Indiana, than someone could in a big city somewhere.