Last year, America’s national poverty rate dipped from 14.8 to 13.5 percent, but Forbes provides a sobering reminder that the nation’s post-recession economic recovery only plays a small role in determining our financial futures. Experts say that race, marriage status, education level, and gender all contribute to our likelihood of ending up in poverty—even if we’re making ends meet with our current incomes.
To predict whether you'll sink below the federal poverty line in the next five, 10, or 15 years, Cornell University sociologist Thomas Hirschl and his colleagues used data from longitudinal studies to create a free online tool called the Poverty Risk Calculator. Simply enter in your demographic information, and it informs you of your chances of reaching near-poverty, poverty, and extreme property. (As of 2015, the federal poverty line for a family of four was an income of $24,000.)
Curious how people from other walks of life fare? You can change the calculator’s variables and compare up to five risk profiles. For instance, if you’re a white, unmarried female in your mid-20s with some college education, your probability of reaching poverty in the next five years is around 14 percent. But if you get married, it drops by more than half. Meanwhile, a non-white, married male in his early-to-mid-40s with no college education has a nearly 30 percent risk for the same time span. Add some college, and his chances plummet to around 11 percent.
In all, Hirschl says, nearly 40 percent of all Americans between age 25 age 60 will drop below the poverty line for one or more years. He hopes his Poverty Risk Calculator will promote awareness of the phenomeon—and that even people who aren’t too worried about money will keep its findings in mind while making financial decisions for their future.
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