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The Poverty Line Was Designed Assuming Every Family Had a Housewife Who Was a 'Skillf

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  • The Poverty Line Was Designed Assuming Every Family Had a Housewife Who Was a 'Skillf

    The Poverty Line Was Designed Assuming Every Family Had a Housewife Who Was a 'Skillful Cook'

    Consider this a lesson about taking statistics at face value.
    JORDAN WEISSMANNJAN 8 2014, 6:27 PM ET


    The official poverty line, as I wrote yesterday, is a dated and crude statistical concept that in many ways fails to capture America's historical success at fighting economic need. It was based on the cost of food in 1963, mostly because the Department of Agriculture had some idea of what a basic grocery budget should look like, whereas there wasn't any real agreement on what families needed to spend on other essentials. Since then, it's mostly just been adjusted for inflation.

    Keep that history in mind while reading this passage, which I found in a 1992 report by the Social Security Administration on how the poverty threshold came to be:

    When the hypothetical family cut back its food expenditures to the point where they equaled the cost of the economy food plan (or the low cost food plan) for a family of that size, the family would have reached the point at which its food expenditures were minimal but adequate, assuming that "the housewife will be a careful shopper, a skillful cook, and a good manager who will prepare all the family's meals at home.”
    (bold added)

    Now, I doubt that the decline of full-time housewives slaving over their stoves has warped our poverty statistics all too terribly, given that food is now less of a concern for low-income families than healthcare or paying rent. Also, it should be noted that the economist who developed the poverty threshold used somewhat different methods for one and two-person households. What I think this passage shows, however, is that when we try to capture abstract concepts like "poverty" in a statistic, we inevitably end up wrapping a certain set of values and social expectations into the package, which can then become very outdated. As we dwell on America's successes or failures fighting poverty 50 years after Lyndon Johnson declared war on it, remember that the stats we use in that conversation are almost never as simple or straightforward as they seem.
    Values, indeed, inform every human evaluation.

    I don't think that being "careful" or a "good manager" are bothering this writer. She's upset by the "skillful cook" part. I think she's believing that since most women today aren't "skillful cooks", it's unfair to expect them to prepare meals from raw foods or minimally processed foods to maximize SNAP benefits.

    The reality is that cooks in 1992 or 1962 were simply less concerned with putting out restaurant-style meals. 'Skillful' was a kind description, not a required practical level of expertise. Family meals in those days were fairly plain affairs involving a meat-thing, a starch-thing, and a veggie-thing. Something even a naive, stupid cook could assemble.

    That the writer assumes "skillful" in this context means "smart, creative, and talented" is sad.

    The Atlantic
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

  • #2
    Funny you say this. When I was in high school, 30 some odd years ago, I was "forced" to take a home-ec class. Both the boys and girls had to take 1/2 a quarter of shop and 1/2 a quarter of home-ec. My group took shop first and outside of a couple of girls doing really well in the drafting part, it was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. The girls kept telling us to "wait until home-ec" thinking that their gender would help them out in that area. Turns out that gender didn't play much of a part in cooking. The girls failed on the home-ec front as well, easily losing to the boys again. Turns out that more boys knew how to cook and even sew better than the girls did. They were more than a bit peeved by this discovery. Turns out experience and need worked better than gender.

    Comment


    • #3
      This is what the web has done to my mind.

      When I first saw the thread title with its arbitrary cutoff length, this is what passed briefly through my mind:

      Skillf? What kind of milf are they calling a skillf? What would the 'sk' be for? Skeleton? Naw. Skull? Ew. Skier? Oooh, Lindsey Vonn. Mmmmm. Wait, what were we looking at again?
      Enjoy.

      Comment


      • #4
        More on topic, this is what I thought of when I read the "skillful cook" part:

        Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

        Black: You know them chefs in them uptown restaurants?

        White: Not personally, no.

        Black: You know what they like to cook?

        White: No.

        Black: Sweetbreads. Tripe. Brains. All that shit they don't nobody eat. You know why that is?

        White: Because it's a challenge? You have to innovate?

        Black: You pretty smart for a cracker. A challenge. That’s right. The stuff they cook is dead cheap. Most folks throws it out. Give it to the cat. But poor folks dont throw nothin out.

        White: I guess that's right.

        Black: It dont take a lot of skill to make a porterhouse steak taste good. But what if you cant buy no porterhouse steak? You still wants to eat somethin that tastes good. What you do then?

        White: Innovate.

        Black: Innovate. That’s right, Professor. And when do you innovate?

        White: When you dont have something that you want.

        Black: You fixin to get a A plus. So who would that be? That aint got what they want?

        White: Poor people.

        --The Sunset Limited, by Cormac McCarthy
        Last edited by Norm dePlume; Saturday, January 11, 2014, 4:44 PM.
        Enjoy.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
          When I first saw the thread title with its arbitrary cutoff length, this is what passed briefly through my mind:

          Skillf? What kind of milf are they calling a skillf? What would the 'sk' be for? Skeleton? Naw. Skull? Ew. Skier? Oooh, Lindsey Vonn. Mmmmm. Wait, what were we looking at again?
          SKiffler's mom?
          It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
          In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
          Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
          Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Curiosity's Dead Cat View Post
            Funny you say this. When I was in high school, 30 some odd years ago, I was "forced" to take a home-ec class. Both the boys and girls had to take 1/2 a quarter of shop and 1/2 a quarter of home-ec. My group took shop first and outside of a couple of girls doing really well in the drafting part, it was pretty much an unmitigated disaster. The girls kept telling us to "wait until home-ec" thinking that their gender would help them out in that area. Turns out that gender didn't play much of a part in cooking. The girls failed on the home-ec front as well, easily losing to the boys again. Turns out that more boys knew how to cook and even sew better than the girls did. They were more than a bit peeved by this discovery. Turns out experience and need worked better than gender.
            We must have gone to the same school. In middle school we had to take 3 years of home ec and shop. I failed miserably at the sewing portions. I did manage to eek out a footstool for one of the wood shop classes, that I still have. I never managed to finish the spice rack and the running shorts were just sad.
            Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
            Robert Southwell, S.J.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
              We must have gone to the same school. In middle school we had to take 3 years of home ec and shop. I failed miserably at the sewing portions. I did manage to eek out a footstool for one of the wood shop classes, that I still have. I never managed to finish the spice rack and the running shorts were just sad.
              I took both and made an apron and a picnic bench.

              I was actually pretty good at stuff. Cutting boards, wood box, I made all kinds of useful things. The sewing thing came in handy when I went into the military. Buttons, socks, patches, I was pretty good at repair.
              Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

              Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

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              • #8
                Motivation is the big game-changer in life skills. If you have to cook (to save money, to get your version of edible food, because it's your turn and they won't eat sandwiches one more time), then you learn to cook. It's not an arcane art handed down to a chosen few. Simply prepared food tastes fine.

                People who expect pizza and Salsa Chipolte Swiss Fish tacos may have a period of adjustment.

                It's the same with all that stuff: gardening, sewing, fixing the toilet, amusing a baby. If you have to do it, you can learn it.
                "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                  I took both and made an apron and a picnic bench.

                  I was actually pretty good at stuff. Cutting boards, wood box, I made all kinds of useful things. The sewing thing came in handy when I went into the military. Buttons, socks, patches, I was pretty good at repair.
                  It seems strange to some but in Recon it was expected that we knew how to work a sewing machine and use a needle. It was useful for all sorts of stuff from repair to heavy modification of our packs, parachutes, and attachments. I custom made some damn good waterproof day packs out of webbing and old Gore-Tex.
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                  -John Locke

                  "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                  -Newman

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                    We must have gone to the same school. In middle school we had to take 3 years of home ec and shop. I failed miserably at the sewing portions. I did manage to eek out a footstool for one of the wood shop classes, that I still have. I never managed to finish the spice rack and the running shorts were just sad.
                    I would have done well in woodshop, but girls weren't allowed, let alone required, to take it. I love wood. One of my favorite places when I was a kid was my grandfather's tool shed/shop. I loved helping my dad build a boat with marine plywood and a set of Chris Craft plans. I would also have enjoyed auto shop, but the same - not for girls. I hated everything about Home Ec. I majored in seam ripper. The only thing I hated more was PE.
                    "Since the historic ruling, the Lovings have become icons for equality. Mildred released a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in 2007: 'I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, Black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.'." - Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia)

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
                      I hated everything about Home Ec. I majored in seam ripper. The only thing I hated more was PE.
                      I had a lot of resistance to learning how to sew when I was a little kid but all that changed overnight by the 8th or 9th grade. No way my folks could afford to buy cute clothes (sensible, yes - cute, no) but I was fairly free to use my own money for cloth and notions. I even sewed my own jeans back then in order to get the stylish effect instead of the Wrangler effect. Necessity really is the mother of invention!

                      Luckily, my peers cared more about looks and less about labels.
                      "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm with Celeste (minus the auto part of shop class)..girls did Home Ec and boys did Shop in our school. Home Ec was actually a required credit to graduate and I hated it especially the sewing part. I learned to cook, and be interested in cooking, from my mom so I was bored with the basics of HE.
                        May we raise children who love the unloved things - the dandelion, the worm, the spiderlings.
                        Children who sense the rose needs the thorn and run into rainswept days the same way they turn towards the sun...
                        And when they're grown and someone has to speak for those who have no voice,
                        may they draw upon that wilder bond, those days of tending tender things and be the one.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Michele View Post
                          I'm with Celeste (minus the auto part of shop class)..girls did Home Ec and boys did Shop in our school. Home Ec was actually a required credit to graduate and I hated it especially the sewing part. I learned to cook, and be interested in cooking, from my mom so I was bored with the basics of HE.
                          My 9th-grade Home Ec teacher was a horror. She was so backwoods ignorant that the kids from Crisfield called her a hick. And trust me, Crisfield is so close to the armpit of the universe as to make no never-mind. She had some idea that part of her mission was to teach us basic hygiene, so she explained that we should "warsh" our hair at least weekly and "shaven" under our arms. We spent an entire week on the proper way to make a bed. We never learned to cook anything that anyone would dream of eating, and even the girls who did everything right stayed home sick the day we were to wear our home ec skirt and blouse to school. Even the picture on the pattern envelope was hideous.

                          I taught myself to cook the things I wanted to know how to cook, with an occasional assist from Nova and frequent resort to Joy of Cooking (a gift from a roommate who was afraid I would starve when she moved out). I don't really enjoy it, but I can cook well enough if I choose to. I can't sew for beans and don't care.
                          "Since the historic ruling, the Lovings have become icons for equality. Mildred released a statement on the 40th anniversary of the ruling in 2007: 'I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, Black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.'." - Mildred Loving (Loving v. Virginia)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
                            Motivation is the big game-changer in life skills. If you have to cook (to save money, to get your version of edible food, because it's your turn and they won't eat sandwiches one more time), then you learn to cook. It's not an arcane art handed down to a chosen few. Simply prepared food tastes fine.

                            People who expect pizza and Salsa Chipolte Swiss Fish tacos may have a period of adjustment.

                            It's the same with all that stuff: gardening, sewing, fixing the toilet, amusing a baby. If you have to do it, you can learn it.
                            I need to change a flush valve this weekend.
                            One of my most dreaded tasks.
                            Toilets are not in the middle of the bath room.
                            Requires body positions that were probably ok when I was very young or post adolescent antics in the back seat of my '48 Plymouth.. but at my age, laying on the floor removing the lines and the old valve isn't appealing at all.
                            Robert Francis O'Rourke, Democrat, White guy, spent ~78 million to defeat, Ted Cruz, Republican immigrant Dark guy …
                            and lost …
                            But the Republicans are racist.

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                            • #15
                              Nostalgic side note to this thread.

                              As most of you know, my wife passed away some years ago.
                              I still have her recipe box and on occasion, I will think.. she used to make xxx and I sort of miss it.. I know what it entailed but lemme see if there is anything I missed, so I rummage through the box.

                              The nostalgic part is, when she was in HE, apparently they had to turn in recipe's to make their own collection.
                              It's sort of neat to look at them knowing she copied those onto those cards back in probably '63.

                              My grand daughter will get the box.
                              Robert Francis O'Rourke, Democrat, White guy, spent ~78 million to defeat, Ted Cruz, Republican immigrant Dark guy …
                              and lost …
                              But the Republicans are racist.

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