What is life really like for Americans living in poor households?

Investigation in progress
Investigation in progress

This article is from the Daily Signal.


Today, the Census Bureau will release its annual poverty report. It will almost certainly report that over 40 million Americans “live in poverty.”

But what does it mean to be poor in America? To the average American, the word “poverty” suggests significant material deprivation. But the actual living conditions of those the government defines as poor differ greatly from this perception.

According to the government’s own reports, the typical American defined as poor by the Census Bureau has a car, air conditioning, and cable or satellite TV. Half of the poor have computers, 43 percent have Internet, and 40 percent have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.

Far from being overcrowded, poor Americans have more living space in their home than the average non-poor person in Western Europe. Some 42 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes; on average, this is a well-maintained three-bedroom house with one and a half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, only 4 percent of poor children were hungry for even a single day in the prior year because the family could not afford food. By its own report, the average poor person had sufficient funds to meet all essential needs and was able to obtain medical care for his family throughout the year whenever needed.

The left likes to claim that the U.S. has far more poverty than other advanced nations. But those claims are based on comparisons that set a higher standard for escaping poverty in the U.S. than elsewhere.

When a single uniform standard is used, the U.S. is shown to have poverty rates that are very similar to other advanced nations, slightly higher or lower depending on the exact measure used.

I think we definitely want to be careful about the outcry on the secular left about “poverty”. Their solution always seems to be that we need to move in the direction of socialism. And socialism means that the government gets bigger by taking money and liberty away from families, churches and businesses.

As a Christian, my goals are all gospel-centric. My interest in politics is because I want to live in a society that respects my right to work, earn and save, so that I can spend and give in a way that advances the gospel. My job is not to transfer my money to lazy people in their dependence on government. I go to work so that I can have the fuel I need to respect God in my decision-making. The secular government is interested in other goals – like getting elected. I don’t want them using my money for their goals. I have my own goals.

4 thoughts on “What is life really like for Americans living in poor households?”

  1. Just remember, there but for the grace of God goes you. Don’t compare the poor in America to the people of other nations. Compare their lives to the lives of other Americans. A major stroke, a neurological disorder, or any of a thousand other things and your wealth and all you have worked for is gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you are living in that poor household, frequently, at least in my case, you aren’t aware that you are poor. As long as you have food, clothing and shelter, you can be pretty satisfied. Sure, there may be things you can’t have, but you learn to make do. And there are those folks that have more, but they can’t take your happiness away, only you can give it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amusingly, my previous/penultimate place of employment used to send people monthly to volunteer at the city’s Food Bank. One of my H1B coworkers decided to go (and the lady is NOT political as far as I know, like we never get into politics).

    She observed people with Beamers and having new Flat Screen TVs picking up items from the Food Bank. She was a bit surprised and aghast … like … “Do these people have any shame?!”

    Or this morning my wife was talking about a money column she likes to read where two friends had a big spat… the two friends had planned an expensive exotic vacation to a warm place, and one friend had noticed the other friend had a GoFundMe for her cat’s vet bills. The first friend, feeling fiscally responsible, approached the second friend and asked if they should cancel the vacation because the second friend was having troubles paying the bills. They got into a big argument and it was revealed the second friend felt she ‘deserved’ the vacation and wanted other people to foot the bill for her cat. [The above two examples: it is obvious that people value what they value and they other people to pay for things they can’t afford.]

    I’ve been relatively poor (working before I finished my undergraduate degree, living from paycheck to paycheck, often barely enough to make ends meet … maybe have been one or two months where I was late with my rent check). My wife has really been poor — her father abandoned her family in her early teen years and her mother had a mental breakdown. The family lived off food stamps, charity/donations/food banks/etc. I think we certainly understand “poor.”

    My wife has observed there are various addicts who get payments … almost like rewarding bad behavior. (Sure, they don’t make nearly as much money as we do, and we work hard and studied hard.)

    I did my annual taxes a couple months ago and was explaining a little to our kids about various taxes (we were also talking about public school) — we pay money to the town, to the state, and to the federal government. I understand some amount of taxes are necessary for things like Interstate Highways and infrastructure and police and hospitals and healthcare and so on. I’m not advocating “as little taxes due to as little government and spending for the common good as possible.”

    I do think there is need for **temporary** safety nets, not having people dependent on the government or having systems where everyone else pays for a person’s cat’s vet bills or having systems that reward bad behavior or paying for someone else’s lifestyle/poor lifestyle choices.


  4. Yes lack of real discipline in spending taxes must be one of the biggest issues for all in the West. It creates false economy that can be expected to crush us in new forms of mediocity and mental laziness(we don’t want to face the part we are not playing in stimulating new adventures _many of which require an adventurous or risky spirit).


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