Blog Action Day – Poverty

Poverty (also called penury) is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens. According to Mollie Orshansky who developed the poverty measurements used by the U.S. government, “to be poor is to be deprived of those goods and services and pleasures which others around us take for granted.”[1] Ongoing debates over causes, effects and best ways to measure poverty, directly influence the design and implementation of poverty-reduction programs and are therefore relevant to the fields of international development and public administration.

Although poverty is generally considered to be undesirable due to the pain and suffering it may cause, in certain spiritual contexts “voluntary poverty,” involving the renunciation of material goods, is seen by some as virtuous.

Poverty may affect individuals or groups, and is not confined to the developing nations. Poverty in developed countries is manifest in a set of social problems including homelessness and the persistence of “ghetto” housing clusters.[2]
Wikipedia: Poverty

The US government has this to say about poverty…

Poverty: 2007 Highlights

The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2008 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2007.


* The official poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5 percent, not statistically different from 2006.

* In 2007, 37.3 million people were in poverty, up from 36.5 million in 2006.

* Poverty rates in 2007 were statistically unchanged for non-Hispanic Whites (8.2 percent), Blacks (24.5 percent), and Asians (10.2 percent) from 2006. The poverty rate increased for Hispanics (21.5 percent in 2007, up from 20.6 percent in 2006).

* The poverty rate in 2007 was lower than in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available, while statistically higher than the most recent trough in 2000 (11.3 percent).

* The poverty rate increased for children under 18 years old (18.0 percent in 2007, up from 17.4 percent in 2006), while it remained statistically unchanged for people 18 to 64 years old (10.9 percent) and people 65 and over (9.7 percent).

Poverty 2007 Highlights.

When I started thinking about this subject I figured I would just do a fairly standard blog entry with a few links out to other sights for more info. Since then, the world has found itself feeling a little more impoverished on a daily basis. From what I am seeing, many more of us will have the opportunity in the next few years to feel the effects of poverty.

A few years ago I read a post by John Scalzi that really told the story of what being poor in America feels like. That post touched me more than practically anything I have ever read on the subject. It starts like this…

Being Poor

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.

Read the rest at “Whatever: Being Poor”.

Growing up in a one parent home, we never had much in the way of luxury items. Most of the time it was a stretch to put food on the table. We learned early to make do. But you know what, I didn’t think we were poor. Poverty was what those folks up in the Appalachians lived with. But if you look at it, my Grandfather was a sharecropper. As the youngest of twelve, my daddy grew up to be the first in his family to go to college.

While in all likelihood I spent time in poverty growing up, I really don’t remember feeling poor. But, we were. And from the looks of things today, many of us will learn to live with those feelings again as the world corrects  for the excesses of the past couple of decades.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Here is hoping you and yours never learn what “being poor” is all about.


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6 thoughts on “Blog Action Day – Poverty”

  1. This country does a decent job addressing poverty. In the first place, there is not a lot of it here, and secondly, the definition of poverty here is paradise compared to many other countries. We have a myriad of entitlement programs to address these issues from food stamps, Medicaid, county hospitals, earned income tax credit, section 8 housing, unemployment benefits, sliding scale taxation, child healthcare initiatives like CHIPS, organizations like WIC, faith-based programs, etc.

    If you listen to the Democrats, you’d think we were all in souplines nowadays. America has the tools and resources to adapt to crises more quickly than ever. Recent issues just seem worse because we’ve never experienced worse while in fact we are more well off than ever.

    There is a more important message here, and that is what has helped us keep poverty low? It has been the principles of capitalism, not socialism, that has given us these results. Without incentives, which technologies or medicines or their distribution would not be here today? The answer can be found by looking at countries that have adopted socialist programs that are unsustainable in the long run. There we see double-digit unemployment, lower incomes, social unrest, greater corruption, and the loss of that country’s best minds.

  2. There ya go again, Jim…to borrow a phrase.

    America’s “decent job” at addressing poverty is summed up in the following from Wikipedia…

    The most common measure of poverty in the United States is the “poverty line” set by the U.S. government. This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society.[1] The official threshold is adjusted for inflation using the consumer price index. Poverty in the United States is cyclical in nature with roughly 12% to 16% living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time, and roughly 40% falling below the poverty line at some time within a 10 year time span.[2] Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75.[3] While there remains some controversy over whether the official poverty threshold over- or understates poverty, the United States has some of the highest absolute and relative pre- and post-transfer poverty rates in the developed world.[4][5] Overall, the U.S. ranks 12th on the Human Development Index.[6]

    Poverty in the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

  3. Gary, the US is not a monoculture like Switzerland or Norway, rather it is a large area containing many different cultures. It was never designed to be, nor is it fiscally feasible to make the US the lowest poverty-rate country. I have heard of the US referred to as “the land of opportunity”, but never have heard it described as “the land of the free lunch”. The immigration rates prove the appeal of the US system of meritocracy that rewards hard work and aptitude. Connect some of the lowest poverty rate countries next to Mexico and expand their diversity to our level and their ranking would most likely fall.

    I’m remembering a religious song I heard from the movie Sargent York….”It was good for your father, it was good for your mother, it’s good enough for me”. This applies to my country as well because it has served my family well.

  4. So, we go from not having a lot of poverty here in your first comment to it was never designed to have the lowest poverty rate and it is not fiscally possible.

    And your reliance on “the meritocracy that rewards hard work and aptitude”, leaves a lot to be desired for those at the bottom of the “meritocracy” working two low paying jobs just to stay below the poverty line. Aptitude and hard work has little to do with the ability to get ahead.

    Jim, I am happy that your family has done well. I like to think mine has too. But my children are looking at a world that is not rewarding hard work and aptitude like it did in my father’s generation. And when I look at what my two young grandsons will face in the way of opportunities, I am left with worries about the future of this country.

  5. I don’t see an inconsistency in stating that we have low poverty rates but not the lowest. The US is unique and comparisons to other countries often fall short.

    If you think about it, the left can forever use poverty and further spending for “good” programs. I bet I could I could come up with as many “right thing to do” programs as the left, but you’ll never convince the common man that carte blanche spending and burdening future generations is a good thing. Similarly, the left can try and perpetually argue for the moral high ground, but it will always be rhetoric that cannot be empirically measured as favorable for our nation.

    I sure would like to hear some details on how your children not enjoying the same standard of living. If you look at historical data, standards of living have been increasing from your father’s generation (e.g. income, home ownership, life expectancy, nutrition, healthcare, education, etc.). What gives?

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