MYTH: “No One Who Works Full Time Should be in Poverty”

MISLEADING CLAIM: “In America, no one should have to work full time and live in poverty.”

REALITY: Not many people in poverty work full time. The United States does not have a major poverty problem.

Here are two facts about people in the US who live in poverty (1):

– 2.8% of full time workers are below the poverty line
– 16.3% of less than full time workers are below the poverty line

Are the poor starving? Let’s look at some USDA data. Only 4% of Americans live in low-income areas that are more than a mile from the grocery store. Interestingly, 93% of low-income people report taking a car to the grocery store, either as driver or passenger. The survey found that 97% of households have enough food to eat and only 3% of households “sometimes or often do not have enough to eat”. (2)

What’s it like living the US if you’re considered impoverished? (3)

– 80% of poor households have A/C, which is up from 36% in 1970
– Nearly 3/4s have a car or truck
– Half have a personal computer
– 2/3 have cable or satellite TV

According the Brookings Institute, the most inclusive income-based poverty measures report FAR more poverty than consumption based measures. America’s poorest consume far more than they report in income. (4)

Based on data from Food Research and Action Center, the American poor are very well fed. FRAC found an inverse relationship between Body Mass Index and wages. BMI slightly increased every year for the poor. But is that from buying lower price and quality food because of being low income? Not exactly. Between 1971 and 2002, obesity increased 62% among the poor and 155% for non-poor. (5)

CONCLUSION: Poverty will never cease to exist. It will ALWAYS be part of any society. In the US, our poor people have experienced increased standards of living and more social stability. We do not have people starving on the streets and there are very few people in poverty who work full time.

(1) http://www.census.gov/hhes/povmeas/methodology/supplemental/research/Short_ResearchSPM2011.pdf
(2) http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/242675/ap036_1_.pdf
(3) http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/09/understanding-poverty-in-the-united-states-surprising-facts-about-americas-poor
(4) http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/08/america-poverty-global-context/how-poor-are-americas-poorest.pdf
(5) http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/are-low-income-people-at-greater-risk-for-overweight-or-obesity/

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