Statistically speaking, the US government understands poverty about as well as Marie Antoinette did. For the last 60 years, the United States’ poverty threshold has determined low-income Americans’ eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps, and a litany of other social programs. Families above the poverty line – currently $24,300 for a family of four – should, in theory, have enough income for their basic essentials. But the costs and definition of basic essentials have changed across time and region, without a corresponding change in the poverty line. Unmoved since the Kennedy Administration, the United States’ current poverty line should be replaced by a relative poverty measure as the eligibility determinant for all present and future social programs.