Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964517 | Print ISBN: 9781412909167 | Online ISBN: 9781412964517| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Orshansky, Mollie (1915-2006)
Diana M. Pearce
In the early 1960s, Mollie Orshansky developed the federal poverty thresholds that over the past half century have defined poverty, determined program eligibility for many federal and state programs, and helped shape low-income policies. Though dubbed an “obscure civil servant,” this accomplishment was no accident. One of seven daughters of hard-working Ukrainian immigrants, Orshansky experienced poverty herself, sleeping two to a bed, wearing hand-me-downs, and standing in relief lines. This memory of poverty enabled her to study and write about the poor. Orshansky was the first in her family to graduate from both high school and college (Hunter College), majoring in mathematics and statistics. With career opportunities in universities largely closed to women, she began her lifelong government career at the New York Department of Health, moving to Washington, D.C., in 1936 to work first for the Children's Bureau. There and at other agencies, she accumulated the expertise and experience ...