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How big is your poverty line family?

September 14, 2010

I have a budget.  If you know me, you’re probably not surprised this budget is a rather complicated spreadsheet.  It started after college, and each year the spreadsheet evolves based on my current situation in life and what targets or goals I’ve set.  I’ve also modified it because of how I interact with it, because, at various times, I’ve found I’ll spend or save in excess because of what a chart I created says.  Kind of weird.

Just so you get my level of nerdiness, here’s a screenshot:

It’s blurry for privacy’s sake and I added generic data to fill things in better for appearance, but you get the idea.  There’s rows and columns and a chart and colors and highlighting (and more you can’t see).  All but two columns are based on functions, even the changing colors are a result of the input data.

The one thing that my budget has always lacked is perspective.  Sure I know the ins and outs of my money, but what does that mean?  Is my budgeting obtuse?  Am I saving below average or above?  Am I worrying about this too much?  It feels a bit narcissistic, but with news sources yelling at me daily about the economy, I needed something substantial to judge myself on.

Also, I wanted to play with numbers.

The US 2008 median annual household income was $50,303.
For Minnesota, that number is $57,288.

I think I’m kind of a household, though my ego might just like the sound of that.  I really don’t have anything more than a few plants depending on me, so this data probably doesn’t relate much to my situation… and, therefor I won’t be sad my income falls short of these number.  This, however, does highlight that people in MN probably bitch more than their fair share about the economy.  Our cost of living can’t be 14% greater than average.

The US per capita income for the overall population in 2008 was $26,964
for non-Hispanic Whites it was $31,313
for Blacks it was $18,406
for Asians it was $30,292
and for Hispanics it was $15,674

Naturally, dragged down by all those freeloading kids and the like, per capita income is a bit more useful a comparison.  One person one income is hard to compare to something like two or three incomes spread over a half dozen people.  Still, these numbers make me feel that at least I’m holding my own.
Side-note: Asians, way to hold your own.

Then I decided, for lack of a good comparison, why not counter the self obsession with a dose of humility.  As a result, I came up with this question: “How large of a family in poverty are you?”  Basically, based on a certain income, how many adults in one residence could achieve the “minimum adequate standard of living in the US.”

The Department of Health and Human Services proposes a simplified poverty level guideline annual, which is nice and linear, but I decided to use the 2009 US Census Bureau’s poverty threshold data for accuracy.  This means there’s error in my results, but considering the kind of obscure nature of the question, it’s plenty accurate.  The result is a fairly simple calculation: take your gross income (before taxes), subtract $4923.40 and divide that result by $4440.70.  The result is the approximate size a family could be at the poverty line on your income (you should round down since partial people can’t exist).

Example: $10,000 per year – $4923.4 =  $5076.6
$5076.6 / $4440.7 = 1.14319814443 or 1 person at the poverty line

I’d encourage you to quickly grab a calculator (there’s one on your computer) and run through the calculation, but for the extremely lazy, here’s a table by family size:

Persons – Associated poverty line income level
1 – $9,364.10
2 – $13,804.80
3 – $18,245.50
4 – $22,686.20
5 – $27,126.90
6 – $31,567.60
7 – $36,008.30
8 – $40,449.00
9 – $44,889.70

I wanted to plug in a handy little calculator into this post, but apparently WordPress doesn’t allow scripting or embedded pages unless you host it independently.  So I’ll have to come back to that at some point.

And for curiosity’s sake:

You’re probably a bigger family than you realized.


From → MATH

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