Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Poverty in America

It’s important to remember that poverty is relative.

From the article:

Dickensian images evoked by the word poverty does not apply in the US, at least in most cases.
The poor in America live in the following conditions:
* 43% of the poor own their homes, and the average home is a three-bedroom house with a garage and 1.5 bathrooms
* Over two-thirds of households have two rooms per occupant, which belies the notion of overcrowding
* 80% of the poor have air conditioning
* Almost 75% own one car; 31% own two or more
* The average living space for the American poor is larger than the average space for all people in Paris, Vienna, and London, among other cities in Europe.

10 comments:

Admiral Burns said...

I think these numbers are scued by people who have wealth, but no income. Unemployed bloggers come to mind.

Mike Stajduhar said...

I'd have to call that a cheap shot. Besides it's untrue in the instant case. Our household income is well above the poverty line (top 20% actually).

Relatively few people have "wealth but no income" as that would require spending down your assets just to meet daily expenses. Normally you invest your wealth so that it provides income. Some of the elderly I suppose fall into might fall into this camp, but between investment income, government benefits, pensions, the value of their home equity and so on, they're generally considered to be the wealthiest segment of the population.

Lady Hampton said...

I would agree Admiral, except that this is the most "work" I've seen Mike accomplish in a long time. Maybe he's found a calling...

admiral burns said...

Okay, it was a little bit of a cheap shot. I was going for funny. Sorry Mike.
On a more serious note: you have to consider how expensive it is to live in our society. Unlike many European cultures, we all have to have cars and they cost money, especially the insurance that is required by law. And what about health insurance? Then, there is cable tv and the internet and cell pnones. Granted, we don't "need" these things, but we don't know that we don't need them. Besides, to not have many of these things kind of isolates one from his fellows.
There are also factors like how Europeans shop for their food every day and could get by without refrigorators.
It may be a bit artificial, but we have none the less created a way of life that is very expensive.
To change poverty, we need to change our society and materialism.

Mike Stajduhar said...

Hmmm… where do I begin? I think by any reasonable measure it’s MUCH cheaper to live in the United States than it is in Europe (I assume you mean somewhere like France, Germany or the UK not Albania or Poland). Aside from higher taxes on income, Europeans face one highest and most regressive sales taxes in the world. There are exceptions of course, the Irish pay relatively little to the taxman as do (and this is somewhat surprising) the Scandinavians. This has an enormous impact on cost of living analysis. Couple that with higher housing prices, a phobia about GM food products, anemic economic growth and structural unemployment in the neighborhood of 15% (some countries it’s more like 25%), and you have a situation that is best described as grim.

As for Americans “needing” cars while Europeans don’t, I not sure I agree. If you live in rural Nebraska or rural France, you need a car. If you live in New York City or Paris you don’t need a car (but if you have to operate one in Europe you’ll pay a LOT more for the privilege-gas alone costs about three times as much).

Health insurance IS expensive in the U.S. but as the old joke says “if you think health care is expensive now, wait until the government gives it away for free”.

It’s true we Yanks love our gadgets and the cost of these does add up. I think though that they can correctly be thought of as either entertainment expenses or labor saving devices. In my experience, if I didn’t have cable I’d just go to the movies or a restaurant. It’s probably a net savings. Similarly, having a car (and a refrigerator) saves you from having to go shopping all the time. Aside from being a chore, it costs you money in the form of gas, bus fare or something similar. I think idea of picking up dinner every night at the grocery store is more appealing in the abstract than reality. For what it’s worth many Americans do this as well…in New York, Chicago, Boston and so on. They do it, not because it’s charming but because there is no way to get 20 bags of groceries home on the subway.

Admiral Burns said...

Actually, I did mean Albania or Poland. Any of those eastern European countries that still belive in ware-wolves.

Mike Stajduhar said...

Innocent blogger sits down to his morning coffee and checks his site. Ah, he notices a new comment from Admiral Burns…Snort…coffee comes out his nose.

Actually I think some of the local currencies may be backed by werewolves (or vampires-there is some regional variation on this issue).

Lady Hampton said...

Anyone have the current exhange rate for the werewolf/vampire currency? Is it doing better than the USD? Just curious...

Mike Stajduhar said...

I believe its 2.225 werewolves to the vampire at the current exchange rate. This makes vampire based currency slightly stronger than the dollar but weaker than the Euro or Pound.

Admiral Burns said...

What effect will the full moon at the end of this month have on these economies?
Werewolves and vampires are a lot more interesting than poor people.