Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why are the poor, poor?

Mark Rank is a professor of social welfare at Washington University.  He lays out some interesting statistics about poverty in American in a recent op-ed article in the New York Times such as:
40 % of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the poverty line (currently $23,492 for a family of four) in their lifetime

54% of Americans will experience a year in poverty or a year with income below 150% of the poverty line.
4 out of 5 Americans will spend some time on welfare, live in or near poverty and/or be unemployed at some time during their working lives.

50% of American children will live in a family that depends upon food stamps to provide them with food during some time during their childhood.
Fortunately, most people who live in or near poverty will do so for only a year or two before climbing back above the poverty level.

Unfortunately, most people who experience poverty and recover will slip back into poverty.

In most case, Americans will slip into poverty or near poverty due to reasons mostly beyond their control such as a medical problem that prevents them from working or is expensive to treat.
Poverty and near-poverty is not found just in urban areas but is widespread across urban, rural and even suburban areas.

Two-thirds of people living in poverty or near poverty at any given time are White.
American spends considerably LESS on programs to help people avoid or get out of poverty than any other industrial nation, particularly European countries.

Only a small percentage of Americans living in or near poverty are doing so because they have failed to work hard enough or made bad decisions.  The vast majority are people who encountered an unexpected and unpredictable crisis.  The vast majority have worked hard all other their lives and will work hard again.  Most just need a little help for a short period to get back on their feet again.
Ranks lays out some really inconvenient facts about who is in poor in this country and why.  It is much more comforting for Americans who are making it to believe that poor people are poor because of choice of lack of a work ethic.  Most Americans never find out something different until a life crisis turns them from being okay to poverty stricken, sometimes overnight.

Rank’s op-ed is a very sad commentary on our country.  We can and should do better when it comes to helping the poor.  After all, we all could find ourselves or out loved ones in the same situation someday. And, NO, Republicans.  While churches and charitable organizations can help, they can not do the job by themselves.  We all have to do our share.  That means—US, Government.  Because that IS what government IS in a country like the United States.  Remember, “We, the people.”

And, check out his forthcoming book, “Chasing the American Dream.”  I’m pre-ordering a copy.

No comments: