Half are under the median!

The Associated Press reports on the horrors of income inequality:

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

That’s right, nearly one-in-two Americans are below the median. How dreadful!

Think I’m being overly glib? I’m not. The Obama administration’s new poverty line really is defined in terms of income quantiles. It’s not literally set at the median; the actual definition is more complicated, but we can expect the two to track each other pretty well. (The actual definition is 150% of the 30th percentile of a particular wealthy population.) The definition was designed to ensure that there will always been plenty of people in poverty, and the AP is playing along.

(Via The New Editor.)

UPDATE: Tom Blumer also takes a critical look at the new poverty line. Oddly, his account of the definition is different in detail than the one I linked, but it’s still quantile based.

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