Category: Poverty

This post is based, in part, on this post from 2017. It also incorporates some ideas from Radical Charity: How Generosity Can Save the World (And the Church). One of the strangest things that poverty skeptics try to do is redefine poverty. Most of us have a pretty intuitive definition of ‘poverty’: it means something like ‘not having enough money’ or ‘not having enough wealth’. Charity skeptics tend to make poverty about something other than money. Ruby Payne, for example, writes that “the ability to leave poverty is more dependent upon other resources than it is upon financial resources.”…
A week or so ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted about his experience meeting someone outside of a Chicago grocery. The person he met tried to sell him food stamps, offering $100 in purchases on her EBT card for $80 in cash. My friend thought this was funny, because this person was doing what he thought was a terrible job of negotiating. And, of course, the comments on his post were predictable: this person doesn’t have a job, this is taxpayer money, and so on. But here’s the thing: that person trying to sell access to her EBT…
The survey, which was conducted in 2016, asked respondents 10 questions, on which they were then given a score from 0 to 100. In all, the average consumer score was 54. About a third of all adults in the U.S. have financial well-being scores of 50 or below, meaning they struggle to make ends meet or experience material hardship. Consumerist: More Than 40% Of Americans Struggling To Make Ends Meet FacebookTwitterLinkedInredditBuffer…
Last week was a rough week for me: I recently bought a new house and, after some storms, we discovered water in the basement. That led to the discovery of some broken and disturbed asbestos tile, which will need to be abated before we do any finishing work in the basement. In an act of petty vandalism, someone threw a rock through my car window. Since the amount to replace the window was less than my deductible, insurance didn’t cover it. I broke my glasses. I have an extra pair, so I can still see (or I wouldn’t be…
Recently, I was talking to a colleague who told me about her need to see a financial planner. Here’s what her reasoning was. When she has money, she is disciplined about saving. When she doesn’t have as much money – when she needs to spend the money she has on other things – she’s not so disciplined. She needs someone to hold her accountable all the time and make sure she’s disciplined about saving. And, she said, the low-income people she works with need the same thing: someone to make sure their disciplined about saving. And that struck me…
And how is one to move up from the lower group to the higher one? Education is key, Temin writes, but notes that this means plotting, starting in early childhood, a successful path to, and through, college. That’s a 16-year (or longer) plan that, as Temin compellingly observes, can be easily upended. For minorities especially, this means contending with the racially fraught trends Temin identifies earlier in his book, such as mass incarceration and institutional disinvestment in students, for example. Many cities, which house a disproportionate portion of the black (and increasingly, Latino) population, lack adequate funding for schools….
There’s a buzzword that I keep hearing from colleagues in the social services sector: self-sustainability. If you gathered a bunch of professionals in one room and asked them what their primary mission is – not as individuals or organizations, but as social services agencies – my guess is that a lot of them would say, “To help the people we serve become self-sustaining (or self-sufficient or independent or whatever).” And that’s strange to me. Because no one is self-sustainable. Here’s a thought experiment to illustrate that point. Imagine, for a moment, that you are lost in the desert. How…
When a person lives in poverty, a growing body of research suggests the limbic system is constantly sending fear and stress messages to the prefrontal cortex, which overloads its ability to solve problems, set goals, and complete tasks in the most efficient ways. This happens to everyone at some point, regardless of social class. The overload can be prompted by any number of things, including an overly stressful day at work or a family emergency. People in poverty, however, have the added burden of ever-present stress. They are constantly struggling to make ends meet and often bracing themselves against…
Historically, the distribution of benefits was about flat. Richer people received more Social Security benefits, but that was offset by higher Medicaid and disability insurance payouts to lower-income people. But for younger cohorts, the affluent get about $130,000 more in lifetime benefits than the poor. And they find that the most simplistic forms of program cuts that involve raising the age at which you can first claim benefits exacerbates the situation. Vox: Growing Life Span Inequality Has Given the Rich an Extra $130,000 in Government Benefits FacebookTwitterLinkedInredditBuffer…
I don’t know how I missed On the Media’s powerful multi-part series on myths about poverty, but I did. Busted: America’s Poverty Myths draws on some of the same research that I use in my critiques of the case against charity. This series is both a powerful indictment of how poverty is portrayed in the media and a helpful corrective. If you don’t have time to read book after book about the reality, psychology, and economics of poverty, I highly recommend listening to this series… repeatedly. Part 1: The Poverty Tour Part 2: Who Deserves to be Poor? Part 3: Rags to Riches…

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