The state of poverty was first officially recognized by the U.S. government in July 1963 — one month before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his soaring “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In the years that followed, need annexed itself to the national census like some malignant 51st state.

Devised by an economist at the Social Security Administration, the poverty threshold became a way of reckoning the “economic justice” for which King would campaign before he died in 1968. Though his leadership of the civil rights movement is the most memorable aspect of his legacy, King was in Memphis trying to help propel black sanitation workers into the middle class when he was assassinated.