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Affluent Christian Investor | October 18, 2021

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Does The U.S. Actually Have Poor?

(Photo by Steven Depolo) (CC BY) (Resized/Copped)

In their detailed analysis of the conditions of the American poor, Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield disclose how the destitute in the United States live significantly better than, not just the poor in the rest of the world, but on par or even better than average citizens from other countries, and even other industrialized countries. America’s average poor household has 40.1 percent[1] more living space than Sweden and even more than many average, not poor, European households. Rector and Sheffield describe the average poor’s household as a:

[…] house or apartment equipped with air conditioning and cable TV. The family had a car (a third of the poor have two or more cars). For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children in the home (especially boys), the family had a game system. […] In the kitchen, the household had a microwave, refrigerator, and an oven and stove. Other household conveniences included a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker.

The home of the average poor family was in good repair and not overcrowded. In fact, the typical poor American had more living space than the average European. (Note: that’s average European, not poor European.) The poor family was able to obtain medical care when needed.  When asked, most poor families stated they had had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.[2]

Simply put, on average, “the [American poor] family was not hungry” and that the “major dietary problems facing poor Americans is eating too much, not too little.”[3]

This is not to say that there aren’t poor people without serious issues and crises, who don’t require the additional support – there certainly are. Thankfully, Americans are responsive and generous beyond any other people in history. But it does demonstrate how the American poor life does not compare to the typical definition, as it’s been defined in other eras of history in the world, or in other country’s current conditions. They live at a much higher standard by a substantial margin. According to Rector and Sheffield, “As a rule of thumb, poor households tend to obtain modern conveniences about a dozen years after the middle class. Today, most poor families have conveniences that were unaffordable to the middle class not too long ago.”[4]

Most Americans have the perception that the poor live in destitute housing, assuming they even have housing, but for the average American poor, this perception is not reality. With ample research, Rector and Sheffield explain that “forty-three percent of all poor households own their own homes,” which “is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio” and are, whether a house or apartment, “in good condition.”[5]

The perception is also that the American indigent population is starving or, at least, scraping for food just to get by, but this is also not the case. “On average, the poor are well nourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children. In most cases, it is well above the recommended norms,” while “most low income households do not suffer even temporary food shortages.[…] 92.5 percent of poor households assert that they always had ‘enough food to eat,” and “the overwhelming majority of poor households report that they consistently have enough food to eat.”[6]

The late physician and statistician Hans Rosling discloses the misunderstanding of poverty as a “mega misconception.” Rosling explains those in wealthy industrialized nations simply do not understand or grasp true poverty; noting, “The thing known as poverty in [the United States] is different from ‘extreme poverty.’ It’s ‘relative poverty.’ […] When you live on [the highest global wealth range], everyone on [any level lower than yours] can look equally poor, and the word poor can lose any specific meaning. Even a person [in the highest range level of income] can appear poor.”[7] Poverty is a factual condition, not a relative one. And the majority of Americans do not understand this fact, and politicians and the media do a grand disservice feeding the false narrative.

[1] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, September 13, 2011, “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts about America’s Poor,” Backgrounder, No. 2607, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. 13, see Chart 7.

[2] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 18, 2011, “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?” Executive Summary Backgrounder, No. 2575, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. Executive Summary.

[3] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 18, 2011, “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?” Executive Summary Backgrounder, No. 2575, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. Executive Summary.

[4] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 18, 2011, “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?” Backgrounder, No. 2575, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. 3.

[5] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 18, 2011, “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?” Backgrounder, No. 2575, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. 10.

[6] Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, July 18, 2011, “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What Is Poverty in the United States Today?” Backgrounder, No. 2575, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. 11.  For a breakdown of average nutrition intake see Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, September 13, 2011, “Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts about America’s Poor,” Backgrounder, No. 2607, (Washington DC: The Heritage Foundation), p. 5, see Table 1, p. 6 Table 2, and p. 7, Chart 3.

[7] Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund, 2018, Factfulness:  Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World – and Why Things are Better than You Think, (New York, NY:  Flatiron Books), p. 44.

 

 

 

Originally published on Townhall Finance.

 

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