Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poverty and Lifestyles in the U.S.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word "poor"? Someone who goes hungry? Lacks proper clothing? Doesn’t have adequate shelter? That’s the image I have; but when one actually looks at many of the 37 million people the US Census Bureau classifies as poor, one gets a much different picture of many people classified as poor.

A recently released Heritage Foundation study "How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the 'Plague' of Poverty in America" studied 2005 Census Bureau figures. Here are some of the things they found.
  • Forty-three percent of all poor households actu­ally own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

  • Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

  • Only 6 percent of poor households are over­crowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

  • The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

  • Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

  • Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

  • Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

  • Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
The Heritage foundation study says the two main reasons that children are poor are first, one of the parents doesn’t work much and second, fathers are absent from the home. In fact, two-thirds of poor children live in single-parent households.

These facts point to a much different picture of poverty. I think poverty in the lives of many people starts with a poverty of values and character. The poor need our care and concern, and the underlying solution lies in rebuilding families and marriages.

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