In Between in California: Above the Poverty Line But Not Quite Middle Class
In 1965, as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, the United States attempted to define for the first time what it means to be poor. The government established a federal poverty level equal to three times the annual cost of a minimum diet. This measure would be used to distinguish the needy from the less needy and to set eligibility thresholds for public programs.
At the time, the cost of food constituted a whopping one-third of the average family budget. But as other household expenses such as housing and transportation grew over time, this guideline became less accurate. Today, millions of people living above the poverty line cannot meet their basic needs.