(p. A15) Instead of focusing on reported incomes, our work measures poverty based on consumption: what food, housing, transportation and other goods and services people are able to purchase. This approach, which captures the effect of noncash programs and accounts for the known bias in the CPI-U, demonstrates clearly that there is much less material deprivation than there was decades ago.
Other indicators support this finding. According to the American Housing Survey, the poorest 20% of Americans live as the middle class did a generation ago as measured by the square footage of their homes, the number of rooms per person, and the presence of air conditioning, dishwashers and other amenities. In terms of housing problems like peeling paint, leaks and plumbing issues, today’s poor haven’t quite matched the living standards of the 1980s middle class, but they are getting close.
For the full commentary, see:
Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan. “Hardly Anyone Wants to Admit America Is Beating Poverty; The White House tells the truth, but partisans on both sides are wedded to the idea of failure.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018): A15.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 6, 2018.)