July 26, 2011

NOTHING COSTS MORE THAN IT USED TO:

Plugged-In Poverty: Media images of homeless families and hungry children distort poverty policy. (Richard Rector, 7/26/11, National Review)

Year by year, the poor tend to be better off. Consumer items that were luxuries or significant purchases for the middle class a few decades ago have become commonplace in poor households.

In part, this is because of the normal downward trend in prices that sets in after consumer items are introduced. Initially, new products tend to be expensive and affordable only to the affluent. Over time, prices fall, and the products saturates the entire population -- including poor households. As a rule of thumb, poor households tend to obtain modern conveniences about a dozen years after the middle class. [...]



Let's look at housing.

The typical news story about poverty features a homeless family with kids sleeping in the back of a minivan. But government data show that only one in 70 poor persons are homeless.

Another common media image of poverty is a despondent family living in a dilapidated mobile home. But only a tenth of the poor live in trailers; the rest live in houses or apartments, many of which are in good repair. The poor are rarely overcrowded. In fact, the average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor European.

How about hunger? Activists proclaim, "At the end of every day, 17 million children go to bed hungry." TV news reports wail that America faces a "hunger crisis" in which "nearly one in four kids" is hungry.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which conducts the nation's food-consumption and hunger survey, says otherwise. The USDA reports that 988,000 children (or 1.3 percent of all American children) personally experienced very low food security -- which means "reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns" -- at any point in 2009.

During the full course of the year, only one child in 67 was reported "hungry," even temporarily, because the family couldn't afford enough food. Ninety-nine percent of children did not skip a single meal during 2009 because of lack of financial resources.


It's kind of cute the way folks insist the same iron laws won't apply to hybrid cars.


Posted by at July 26, 2011 7:48 AM
  

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