I just read a good article by Dean Calbreath in which he points out the failures in the national poverty line. Basically, he shows that elderly people have a higher cost of living than what the poverty line says.
For example, according to calculations from UCLA research, elderly people from San Diego generally need to spend thousands of dollars more than the poverty line to not live in real poverty, even when they have paid off their mortgage. Renters and people still paying their mortgage have even more to pay!
The United States government has set the poverty line for a married couple at only $13,690. If a married couple makes that much in a year, the government does not consider the couple poor.
In the article, Dead Calbreath also explains the problem of using an old poverty line. The government bases the poverty line on the costs of food, but people need to pay more non-food expenses nowadays than they did when the government created the poverty line formula.
I doubt we could ever make a nation-wide, one-size-fits-all poverty line. Poverty requires a more qualitative method of measurement, rather than a simple quantitative poverty.
Regardless, I think we simply need to at least measure the costs of food, clothes, shelter, and healthcare. Generally speaking, a person needs to make that much in income after paying job-related expenses such as education and transportation.
What would you estimate as the true cost of living in the United States? Please post your estimations in this thread at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums. We need to put our heads together to figure these problems out.