Scaping By: Ehrenreich Interview

Roger Odisio rodisio at
Wed May 16 13:28:08 PDT 2001

Doug Henwood wrote:
> >> Who? Are you thinking of the Social Security Admin economist
> >> Mollie Orshansky?
> >
> >Yes, I think that's her name, I heard the piece too. She
> >apparently did it rather ad hoc because someone in the LBJ admin
> >asker her to, never expecting it to be enshrined forever in law.
> It was a bit more casual than that even - she'd been doing work on
> equivalence scales (how much more a family of 3 needs to live on than
> 2, etc.), and was playing with numbers. She used some old gov't data
> on food budgets to come up with cost of living estimates. LBJ needed
> something to use in his war on poverty and Orshansky's work was
> floating around DC policy circles. The administration seized on it
> and enshrined it into the poverty line. She was kind of disturbed at
> the use to which her work was put.

The problem was not only that they used her numbers to create a "poverty" line, but which ones they chose and what they did with them. But what's the basis for saying she was disturbed about it? Did you hear the interview? Did she say so there? That's been my recollection too, but I don't know where I got it; I can't remember seeing anything she wrote that says that.


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