Understanding Poverty in America

There are many surprising facts about poverty in America. As the Heritage Foundation recently reported – “The US Census Bureau’s annual poverty report presents a misleading picture of poverty in the United States”.

But I believe their observation, although true to a large degree, makes the assumption that having, or not having, certain expensive consumer goods indicates that someone is in a state of poverty or not.

This may be true in some circumstances, but my own experience in travels to Africa, Sri Lanka,  and Mexico indicate otherwise. I’ve found it is very risky to assume that someone with an expensive cell phone, as an example, which is more expensive than items The Heritage Foundation cites, is an indication of someone NOT living in a state of poverty.

We need to, in my opinion, not assume the presence of consumer goods indicate wealth or that the lack of consumer goods indicates poverty. Many people that find themselves in poverty are in fact newcomers to this state. For instance, a family that hit a major hardship (loss of a job, death of the bread winner, divorce) can put someone (often a mother with children) in a state of poverty very quickly.

This can happen to someone in a matter of days or weeks. I’ve read multiple reports that the average person in the USA is one paycheck away from poverty. And without a fall-back (either a family member or friend or a reserve fund) find themselves in dire straits. Talk to anyone that supports families in major cities and they will attest to this phenomenon. For more on this study visit here: Heritage Foundation