Official poverty lines do not exist for the United States for years prior to 1959. In this paper a poverty line comparable to the seminal line is constructed for 1939 using the Orshansky method. Poverty rates are then calculated using the earnings data of the 1940 Public Use Microdata Sample of the U.S. Census. A comparison with similar work by Ross et al. (1987) demonstrates the degree to which continual price indexing of the poverty line results in inappropriate estimates. A trend of increasing incidence of poverty among female-headed households prior to 1960 is also revealed.

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