Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fascinating report on Poverty in the United States

My mom sent me a link to a fascinating report:  Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America's Poor.

Here is the start of the Executive Summary:

Today, the Census Bureau released its annual poverty report, which declared that a record 46.2 million persons, or roughly one in seven Americans, were poor in 2010. The numbers were up sharply from the previous year’s total of 43.6 million. Although the current recession has increased the numbers of the poor, high levels of poverty predate the recession. In most years for the past two decades, the Census Bureau has declared that at least 35 million Americans lived in poverty.

However, understanding poverty in America requires looking behind these numbers at the actual living conditions of the individuals the government deems to be poor. For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests near destitution: an inability to provide nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter for one’s family. However, only a small number of the 46 million persons classified as “poor” by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity.

The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports:
  • 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
  • 92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
  • Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
  • Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
  • Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
  • Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
  • More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
  • 43 percent have Internet access.
  • One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
  • One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.
For decades, the living conditions of the poor have steadily improved. Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households, partially because of the normal downward price trend that follows introduction of a new product.

I often tell my friends that I would rather live my life today than to be the king of England 500 years ago.  It looks like I would rather be poor in America than the king of England 500 years ago.


Becca Cate said...

How's that poor? If they spent the money they spent on the things in the list on basic necessities and loan payments, etc., they wouldn't be poor.

Christie L Shaw said...

I find it interesting that the report did not comment on what our poverty issues are doing to education! With fewer people being able to pay taxes and losing their homes children are being lost in the educational system. Just another reason for us to realize the power of home school!!!

Henry Cate said...

Becca - That is one of the points of this report, that "poverty" in the United States is not such a great tragedy as it used to be.

Christie - Interesting point. I think it is a chicken and egg problem. Poor education bring people into proverty, and those in poverty don't value education.