Over the course of American history, policies have been created, done away with, and revised. These policies and laws have affected a myriad of organizations and programs across the federal, state, and local levels throughout the years. During the 1960s, social service areas began undergoing major changes and a variety of implementations. Such areas include people with disabilities, poverty/financial assistance, and medical and mental health. The creations of these program areas have significantly impacted the course of history in the United States, and these changes can be seen in present-day America.
By technical definition, poverty can have two meanings: absolute and relative. According to Barusch (2012), "Absolute poverty is based on a fixed level of resources," or a threshold. When the resources are below the threshold, this person is experiencing absolute poverty. "Relative poverty is based on comparison" (pg. 125) between people or time frames (Barusch, 2012). For all purposes, the United States uses the absolute poverty definition – the Federal Poverty Threshold, developed in the 1960s by Mollie Orshansky, under the Kennedy administration. A formula for family needs was created based solely on food, where the cost had been estimated at a third of a family's total cost. At the beginning, however, a study by the Department of Agriculture showed that female single-parent households, the elderly, and farm families spent less money than their counterparts. By the late 1960s, the measure that had been based on food was changed over to the Consumer Price Index that rises with inflation. .
In New York State, poverty varies based on geographic distribution. Overall, poverty has the tendency to be higher in urban areas, lower in suburban neighborhoods, and higher in rural areas (Brown and Hirschl, 1995). The same poverty level seen across the country is reflected at the state level, and can be seen in Brooklyn and the Bronx where poverty is higher; Staten Island has the lowest poverty levels (Hirschl, 2007).