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Defining Poverty in the United States

vesper

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When you hear the word "poverty" do words like destitute and homeless come to mind? Here's some data the 2010 Census revealed about those our government defines as poor.

◾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.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture collects data on these topics in its household food security survey. For 2009, the survey showed:
◾96 percent of poor parents stated that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
◾83 percent of poor families reported having enough food to eat.
◾82 percent of poor adults reported never being hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.
◾Over the course of a year, 4 percent of poor persons become temporarily homeless.
◾Only 9.5 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers, 49.5 percent live in separate single-family houses or townhouses, and 40 percent live in apartments.
◾42 percent of poor households actually own their own homes.
◾Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
◾The average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor person in Sweden, France, or the United Kingdom.
◾The vast majority of the homes or apartments of the poor are in good repair.
Do you find this data in conflict with your understanding of poverty?

How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty - U.S Census Bureau

Understanding Poverty in the United States: Poverty USA
 

RabidAlpaca

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I always chuckle when somebody on DP talks about how America is going down hill and the people are always worse off and suffering, yet the standard of living for the poor has never been better in American history.

As you pointed out, poor people today have computers, internet, smartphones, refrigerators, cable tv, cars, etc.
 

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vesper

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I always chuckle when somebody on DP talks about how America is going down hill and the people are always worse off and suffering, yet the standard of living for the poor has never been better in American history.

As you pointed out, poor people today have computers, internet, smartphones, refrigerators, cable tv, cars, etc.
I believe how the government computes poverty is flawed. They do not include the value of the entitlements (non-cash) such as food stamps, housing and Medicaid in the total income of that person. I believe this to be disingenuous as it allows them to keep the poverty numbers higher by focusing only on cash income. This way the government can justify increases in entitlement spending.
 

Fisher

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OP hasn't enlightened me any even though I find the air conditioning number a little sketchy considering the poverty in large northern cities where a lot of people do not have AC whether they are rich or poor. For instance, when my businesses get new computers, I usually keep one or two of the old ones for future software conflicts, and then have new hard-drives put into them and donate them to a church that has computer training classes to pass them onto poor people.

A lot of things on the list are available rent to own or used pretty readily. Some of the things also are more likely to be gifts from others like DVD players and video game systems.
 

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Poverty in the United States today would be the lap of luxury in many countries. That's not saying it's a good thing or a bad thing. It's just a true thing. Poverty brings to mind people living in abject squalor with no running water or plumbing or food in the house, shoes on the feet, starving babies, etc.

The last I saw of real poverty in the United States was in the late 60's when my mother's side of the family lived in the Appalachians and Ruby and her sister Coopie lived in the mountains. Both lived in very old, very primitive log cabins and raised their families there with a manual pump outside, hand dug outhouses, no electricity, no running water, no telephone, no gas and no oil. And most of all, no money. They were subsistence farmers. These people worked from before daylight until dark. And there are places in other countries where people have it a hell of a lot harder even than they had it.
 

ttwtt78640

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If you're interested in a counterpoint to these 'statistics', you might want to read:

What You Need When You

Or here...

Are Americans living in poverty better off today than they were in 1959?
What these articles ignore is that the cost of living is most directly related to one's location as are the work opportunities available for a given person's skill set. What the poor insist upon is remaining poor "in place" and with gov't assistance to do so. A good point was made about the cost of basic housing (rents) going up far faster than wages, but that is also not a universal truth (our rent is $300/month). Even moving poor folks, at 100% taxpayer expense, into lower cost of living areas is always shot down as "unfair", yet could save billions every year. It is as if one has somehow acquired a right to live on the taxpayer's dime wherever they so choose, even if only 50 to 100 miles away there is a cheaper home and a job opportunity.
 

Gaugingcatenate

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Especially reading the 'linen shirt argument' in response to the last post.
The problems with these articles are that, for instance, in the first article, they try to make it look as though these things that are shown that poor people, in fairly decent percentage, already own [ their "used" refridges, microwaves, computers, TVs, ac, etc...] are in addition to being able to pay rent, buy food.

To be given even more? What would my motivation be to concentrate in school, to keep my job [or do anything else that allows the system to work ] if all my needs are going to be magically taken care of by the "government"? If you want a linen shirt, go out and work for it, increase your skills, invest in yourself and your future. Those who don't, or those who take risks and make horrendously bad decisions, for instance, as to who they have kids with [ if we could keep kids in school, keep them from getting pregnant or getting someone pregnant until they are married, the chances of being stuck in poverty are greatly reduced ]... I do not want to pay for them to make those mistakes, they have to pay for those mistakes themselves. If we do not have such consequences, people will be continuously encouraged to make those bad decisions.

Bad for them and bad for the rest of us.

And I totally agree, should be cut off for the guys at the top as well. The middle class is saddled with most the hard work and have to pay much of the bill.
 

ttwtt78640

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I believe how the government computes poverty is flawed. They do not include the value of the entitlements (non-cash) such as food stamps, housing and Medicaid in the total income of that person. I believe this to be disingenuous as it allows them to keep the poverty numbers higher by focusing only on cash income. This way the government can justify increases in entitlement spending.
They don't even include actual cash like the EITC.
 

Threegoofs

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OP hasn't enlightened me any even though I find the air conditioning number a little sketchy considering the poverty in large northern cities where a lot of people do not have AC whether they are rich or poor. For instance, when my businesses get new computers, I usually keep one or two of the old ones for future software conflicts, and then have new hard-drives put into them and donate them to a church that has computer training classes to pass them onto poor people.

A lot of things on the list are available rent to own or used pretty readily. Some of the things also are more likely to be gifts from others like DVD players and video game systems.
Don't forget- the definition of poverty is based upon annual income. So in good times (pre 2007), a lot of people accumulated stuff who now have little income.
 

Fisher

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Don't forget- the definition of poverty is based upon annual income. So in good times (pre 2007), a lot of people accumulated stuff who now have little income.
Sure, but I think of it as a political issue more in terms of understanding and combating chronic poverty, not the intermittent stuff. It would not be unusual for relatives to give gifts of practical things and help out people in their family who are just starting out, down on their luck and the like, so there are lots of variables that make material possessions not the best indicator of anything relevant and addressable by public policies. I have a relative who is undereducated and chronically unemployed who has no steady income and receives no public benefits whatsoever because the family provides for him and his son, as it has for others who have had intermittent issues like loss of job, and they live a pretty decent life materially and otherwise.
 

vesper

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They don't even include actual cash like the EITC.
Thanks for bringing that up. I did a search on the EITC. It was passed in Congress 1975 and signed into law by G. Ford. Its purpose was to offset the cost of Social Security taxes for low income. But today look what it has grown into...

Nationwide in 2012, over 27 million received nearly $62 billion in EITC for the 2011 tax year.

The average amount of EITC received nationwide was $2,250.
Quite a chunk of change the low income earners don't need to claim as income.

Statistics for Tax Returns with EITC
 

ttwtt78640

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Thanks for bringing that up. I did a search on the EITC. It was passed in Congress 1975 and signed into law by G. Ford. Its purpose was to offset the cost of Social Security taxes for low income. But today look what it has grown into...



Quite a chunk of change the low income earners don't need to claim as income.

Statistics for Tax Returns with EITC
Yep, using the new DC "budget speak", that is about $700 billion (over a decade) or about $100 billion more than the latest tax "the rich" (just a bit) more amount passed in January 2013.
 

Arbo

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As you pointed out, poor people today have computers, internet, smartphones, refrigerators, cable tv, cars, etc.
Exactly.

It seems what those that want to redistribute wealth want to re-define poor as is: "Not extravagantly rich."

Most don't even understand what real poverty is.
 

Threegoofs

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Exactly.

It seems what those that want to redistribute wealth want to re-define poor as is: "Not extravagantly rich."

Most don't even understand what real poverty is.
So how would YOU define it?

By not being at risk for Cholera?
By being able to own a linen shirt?
By not having a place to live?
 

opendebate

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I love it when people who AREN'T poor tell people who are how grateful they should be for their lifestyles. Next why don't you guys tell us what it's like to be black or to be a woman or to get an abortion.
 

Arbo

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Ah, nothing brought to the table, just more ideological nonsense.
 
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