TABLE 2-5 Examples of Poverty Thresholds for Four-Person Families Set by Various Methods for Years Around 1980 and 1990, in Constant 1992 Dollars

Type and Source of Threshold

Thresholds Set for Years Around 1980

Thresholds Set for Years Around 1990

Expert Budget Thresholds

Official (Orshansky 1963 threshold indexed by CPI-U)



Orshansky 1963 threshold indexed by CPI-U-X1



Orshansky food multiplier developed from CEX data

16,163 (1980)

20,659 (1991)

Ruggles housing multiplier

21,331 (1980)

21,640 (1992)

Weinberg/Lamas food/housing multiplier—25th percentile


20,267 (1989)

Weinberg/Lamas food/housing multiplier—35th percentile


21,790 (1989)

BLS lower level budget

19,587 (1981)


Renwick budgeta


17,600 (1992)

Schwarz and Volgy budget


18,983 (1990)

Relative Thresholds

Vaughan one-half median before-tax four-person family income

20,715 (1980)

22,308 (1992)

Vaughan one-half median after-tax four-person family income

16,629 (1980)

18,018 (1992)

Expert Committee on Family Budget Revisions social minimum

15,584 (1979)

19,987 (1991)b

Subjective Thresholds

Vaughan "poverty"

15,895 (1980)

17,703 (1989)

General Social Survey "poverty"


17,228 (1993)

Colasanto et al.

12,160 (1981)


Danziger et al.c

24,680 (1980)


De Vos and Garnerd

32,530 (1982)


SOURCE: See Tables 2-1, 2-2, 2-3, 2-4, and text.

NOTE: All thresholds are after-tax unless otherwise noted; dates in parentheses are the year for which the threshold was developed; all amounts are expressed in constant 1992 dollars using the CPI-U (except the second one, as noted).

a Renwick threshold calculated as weighted average of thresholds for two-adult/two-child families with one earner and two earners. (Weighting assumes that 75% of two-adult/two-child families have two earners and that one-third of those pay for day care.)

b Calculated as one-half average (rather than median) expenditures of four-person consumer units.

c Survey question did not specify whether respondents were to indicate minimum income level before or after-taxes.

d Survey question asked respondents to indicate minimum income level before-taxes.

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