By Cassie M. Chew Sojourners

Suppose the total annual income of a family composed of a mother, father, great-aunt, and two children living outside of a major metropolitan area came to $32,000 in 2019. Although their income might be significantly lower than the average among similarly-sized households in the region, the U.S. wouldn’t have included them in the official count of American families living in poverty.

Families of their size and composition only would have been considered impoverished in 2019 if their earnings fell below $31,275. Since this hypothetical family earned $725 more, they wouldn’t have been considered poor.

Scenarios like this one found among real American families are behind new advocacy to change how the U.S. government defines poverty. In the weeks following Election Day, economists, analysts and a faith-based social action group have joined efforts in the call for President-elect Joe Biden to use the power of the Oval Office.

“It will take a big public push, but I think real improvements can be made by the next administration via executive action,” Shawn Fremstad, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Sojourners.

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