The Numbers Behind Poverty

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This activity, developed from materials found on Poverty USA, will help students gain added perspective on poverty when considering the mathematical realities of what it means to live in poverty.

The federal government says that a family of four making $18,810 a year is living in poverty.

What exactly does that mean?

Housing
A family of four will spend an average of $5,274 a year for even the most basic of shelter.

$18,810
- 5,274
$13,536


Utilities
Want to keep your family warm? The average expense for utilities is $2,350 a year.

$13,536
- 2,350
$11,186


Transportation
If you plan on driving to work, getting your children to school or going to the grocery store, you'll need to spend at least $4,852 to maintain a car and keep it full of gas.

$11,186
- 4,852
$6,334


Food
Even if you get food stamps, the average a family of four needs at least $4,815 a year for food.

$6,334
- 4,815
$1,519


Health Care
Even if an employer contributed part of the costs of health care (which is unlikely for working-class people), the average for a family of four will be $793 a year. A large medical problem likely would devastate the family.

$1,519
- 793
$726


Child Care
Even with child care subsidies, working-class families can spend an average of $2,030 a year on child care for two of their children. In a large metropolitan area, the cost could exceed $13,000 a year.

$726
- 2,030
$-1,304


Now your family is in the red and you still haven't considered the expenses you'll need for toiletries, school supplies, shoes, clothing, holiday and birthday gifts, education, life insurance, furnishings for your house, recreation and vacations, cleaning supplies or any kind of entertainment.

What will you do?

Source: Poverty USA