Eye-opening observations about American poverty statistics

Eye opening comments on American poverty statistics from Philip Greenspun

How many American households suffer in poverty? It might be twice as many as you think. If a man and a woman live in the same crummy apartment with their two biological children, a layperson would walk by and count one poor household. The expert economists at the Census Bureau, however, upon finding that the man and woman are not married, count two households. The father is one household. The mother and the children are a second household. Both are “living in poverty”. What if the man and woman each had a low-wage job and they were to get married? Now the two “poor” households would become one “not in poverty” household.

One thought on “Eye-opening observations about American poverty statistics”

  1. This runs contrary to the surveys I dealt with when working for the 2010 Census. One household meant you counted everyone who lived in the same house or living unit. The only reason you would count someone as being a separate household, is if there was a room or separate unit that had it’s own private entrance.

    Of course poverty assessment needs a lot of work though to adjust to modern times and the various cultures of today’s society, to come up with a fair way to assess. For example, people who’ve grown up say as baby boomers or their children during the great suburb rage of the 50s, 60s, & 70s in the U.S. would think that having an extended family member living in the household as “an extra”. In other countries it may seem normal to have 3 generations or extended family members living in one household. At one time in the U.S., this was the norm too. It’s not now. And therefore I think that should be taken into account. If we base our living standards on each family member or couple “having their own bedroom”… I think you’d find there’s a LOT more people living in poverty in the U.S. than one would guess. That’s not to say that in some other country what they do is better or worse or makes them richer or poorer, just because of how the culture views household make-up. But if it’s considered more socially acceptable NOT to live 5 adults to one house, then someone who does, and is able to pay the bills because of it, is not necessarily “not poor” by social standards.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?