The measurements used by the federal government to determine poverty are out of date and need to be reconsidered, says an advocate for determining appropriate levels of self-sufficiency.
Diana Pearce, with the Center for Women's Welfare at the University of Washington, has traveled the country working on reports to create the standard for economic self-sufficiency.
"Usually defined poverty means not being able to meet your basic needs, but our poverty measure has gotten way out of date and doesn't measure the differences by place by family type," says Pearce.
What she has found in doing the reports, she says, is that while public assistance is still very valuable, it goes to those in very dire straits, leaving those who make a very minimum income just over the "poverty" level not able to qualify.
"One of the things we have found is that there's just an increasing gap that families are facing because their wages aren't going up as fast as the costs are going up," says Pearce.
To help define the new standards, the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona commissioned the Self Sufficiency Standard for Arizona 2012 Report.
Foundation Executive Director Laura Penny says the idea was to figure out what it would take for a family to be completely economically self-sufficient, without relying on any public assistance.
When the report is complete, the organization hopes to help those still in need by getting more state and federal help, Penny says.