In the age of Big Data, we can get closer to solving this problem:
In New York City—the most expensive city in the US—a two-adult, two-child family is considered poor if it earns less than $30,949 a year. The federal government sets the level at about $23,000.
The federal poverty threshold, which was developed over five decades ago and is based on what the estimated food costs were for a family at that time, has been widely criticized as being outdated and flawed. Meanwhile, the New York City poverty number, which is calculated by the City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, takes into account all of a family’s expenses, including housing and resources such as government benefits. While the New York poverty number is a closer reflection of how people live, it’s still not the most accurate measurement.