What is Poverty . . . (Page 6)

Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today? (Page 6)

by Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, reprinted from a July 19, 2011 heritage.org article

References

[1]See Catholic Campaign for Human Development, “Poverty Pulse: Wave IV,” January 2004, at http://www.usccb.org/cchd/PP4FINAL.PDF (June 21, 2011). Interestingly, only about 1 percent of those surveyed defined poverty as the government defines it: as having an income below a specified level.

[2]The Census Bureau defines an individual as poor if his or her family income falls below certain specified income thresholds, which vary by family size. In 2006, a family of four was deemed poor if its annual income fell below $20,615, and a family of three was deemed poor if annual income was below $16,079. In 2009, the thresholds were $21,954 for a family of four and $17,098 for a family of three. U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty Thresholds by Size of Family and Number of Children, at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/index.html (June 23, 2011).

[3]James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), p. 1.

[4]U.S. Department of Energy, Residential Energy Expenditure Survey, 2005, at http://explore.data.gov/Energy-and-Utilities/Residential-Energy-Consumption-Survey-RECS-Files-A/eypy-jxs2 (June 23, 2011).

[5]According to the census, 14.3 percent of the population was poor in 2009, almost the same percentage as in 1966 when the War on Poverty was just starting.

[6]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, at http://www.hudhre.info/documents/2010HomelessAssessmentReport.pdf (June 29, 2011).

[7]Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States,”U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-238, September 2010, at http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf (June 21, 2011).

[8]These surveys include the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, What We Eat in America, Food Security, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the American Housing Survey, and the Survey of Income and Program Participation. See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/ (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Agriculture, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2007–2008, at http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12355000/pdf/0708/Table_4_NIN_POV_07.pdf (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Security, at http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB56/ (June 22, 2011); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/about_nhanes.htm (June 27, 2011); U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey, at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/ahs/ahs.html (June 27, 2011); and U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2001 Panel, Wave 8 Topical Module, 2003, at http://www.bls.census.gov/sipp_ftp.html#sipp01 (June 27, 2011).

[9]U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, 2005 RECS Public Use Microdata Files, at http://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/data/2005/microdata.cfm (June 22, 2011).

[10]See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 1980–2001, at http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/historicaldata/historical_data80_02.html (June 22, 2011).

[11]In households that rent a dwelling, large fixed amenities such as air conditioning, refrigerators, washers, and dryers usually belong to the property owner rather than the renter. In this situation, the amenity will be available to but not owned by the renter.

[12]Although the Department of Energy has produced some tables from the 2009 RECS survey, the microdata files used in this report were not available for 2009. See U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, RECS Survey Data Tables, 2009, at http://www.eia.doe.gov/consumption/residential/data/2009/ (June 22, 2011).

[13]Statistics on the reliability of the estimates in Table 1 are presented in Appendix Table 1.

[14]Statistics on the reliability of the estimates in Table 2 are presented in Appendix Table 2.

[15]The amenity score varies slightly from the number of amenities in the home because a wide-screen television receives a score of two points: one as a television and one as a wide-screen unit.

[16]Chart 1 shows that 21 different amenities are present in over 50 percent of U.S. households. By contrast, the median amenity score is only 19. The median amenity score is less than 21 because, while those 21 amenities are widely available in U.S. households, a single household at the middle of the distribution will not have all 21 amenities simultaneously in its home.

[17]Other items that appeared frequently in poor households with children and with a median amenity score were a non-portable stereo system, a clothes dryer, and ceiling fans. These items frequently replaced the third television, computer, and coffee maker in poor households.

[18]Pre-1980 data were taken from the American Housing Survey. Data for 1980 and later years were taken from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey. See earlier reports at U.S. Census Bureau, “American Housing Survey (AHS),” at http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/ahs/ahs.html (June 27, 2011).

[19]U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/housing/ahs/ahs.html (June 22, 2011).

[20]The current recession caused a slight increase in crowding among poor households. In 2009, 6.1 percent of poor households were overcrowded with more than one person per room. There was no increase in overcrowding in the general population in 2009. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Commerce, American Housing Survey for the United States: 2009, March 2011, p. 15, Table 2.3, at http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/h150-09.pdf (June 22, 2011).

[21]This comparison is to the average person in European countries, not to poor Europeans. Robert Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor? Examining the ‘Plague’ of Poverty in America,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2064, August 27, 2007, at http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/08/how-poor-are-americas-poor-examining-the-plague-of-poverty-in-america.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26]According to the USDA food security report, 18.5 percent of poor households experienced “very low food security” during 2009. The report defines “very low food security” as a condition in which “the food intake of one or more household members was reduced and their eating patterns were disrupted at times during the year because the household lacked money and other resources for food.” Mark Nord, Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,”U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Report No. 108, November 2010, pp. i and 10, at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err108/ (June 22, 2011).

[27] Ibid., p. 12. Only 3.9 percent of poor children experienced “very low food security” during 2009. Ibid., p. i.

[28]See CBS News, “Poverty Increasing in the U.S.,” YouTube, September 13, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJIl1Zr9l7c (June 22, 2011).

[29]The number of households that used food pantries at any point during the year increased by 1.7 million between 2007 and 2009. In 2007, 3.9 million (3.4 percent of all households) used food pantries at some point in the year. By 2009, the number had risen to 5.6 million (4.8 percent of all households). The number of families that used emergency kitchens at any time during the year increased from 535,000 in 2007 to 625,000 in 2009. Mark Nord, Margaret Andrews, and Steven Carlson, “Household Food Security in the United States, 2007,”U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service Report No. 66, November 2008, p. 33, and Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,”p. 34.

[30]Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009,”p. 34. In contrast to the USDA numbers, Feeding America estimated that 10.3 million households used food pantries in 2009, but this estimate is not scientific and is not based on a representative sample of the U.S. population. The report uses complex and subjective estimation techniques, which include arbitrarily adjusting some results upward. Feeding America, Hunger in America 2010: National Report Prepared for Feeding America, January 2010, esp. p. 38.

[31]For example, a 60 Minutes story equated child poverty with homelessness. CBS News, “Hard Times Generation,” 60 Minutes, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cR3jQOgs9gc (June 22, 2011).

[32]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Community Planning and Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, June 2010, p. 8, at http://www.hudhre.info/documents/5thHomelessAssessmentReport.pdf (June 22, 2011).

[33]The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report estimates that 633,000 individuals were homeless on a given night in 2009. The Current Population Survey states that the U.S population in 2009 was 303.6 million. Thus, the single-night homeless were 0.2 percent of the population, or one in 500 persons. The Current Population Survey states that 43.6 million persons were poor in 2009, which means that the single-night homeless were 1.48 percent of the poor population, or one in every 68 poor persons. (This calculation assumes that all of the homeless would have an annual income below the poverty level.) Technically, persons who are homeless at the point of survey would not be included in the census count of persons or poor persons. To be precise, the homeless should be added to the denominator in both calculations, but this would affect the results only marginally.

[34]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 18.

[35]The number of evictions has increased substantially during the current recession. Nonetheless, in the American Housing Survey of 2009, only 191,000 households (0.2 percent of all households) reported being evicted during the previous year. This figure does not include persons who at the time of the survey were in homeless shelters or were doubled up with relatives. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Commerce, American Housing Survey for the United States: 2009.

[36]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 26, Exhibit 3-2.

[37]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

[38]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, p. 43, Exhibit 4-12, and p. 68, Exhibit 5-6.

[39]U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, p. 10.

[40]Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor?”

[41]Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car, and 31 percent own two or more cars. See Rector, “How Poor Are America’s Poor?”

[42]This survey question was asked of a nationally representative sample of 10,000 adults in June 2009. The poll was conducted by a national polling firm on behalf of The Heritage Foundation.

[43]For average household income by quintile, see U.S. Census Bureau, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009,”September 2010, p. 40, at http://www.census.gov/prod/2010pubs/p60-238.pdf (June 22, 2011). For consumer expenditures per quintile, see U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditure Survey: Quintiles of Income Before Taxes, 2009, at http://www.bls.gov/cex/2009/Standard/quintile.pdf (June 22, 2011).

[44]John Edwards, letter to President George W. Bush, July 19, 2007, at http://blog.johnedwards.com/story/2007/7/19/13140/5388 (August 21, 2007; unavailable June 22, 2011).

[45]John Edwards, “Conclusion: Ending Poverty in America,” in John Edwards, Marion Crain, and Arne L. Kalleberg, eds., Ending Poverty in America: How to Restore the American Dream (New York: The New Press, 2007), pp. 256 and 257.

[46] Ibid., p. 256.

[47]Mark Steyn, “The Tearjerker,” The Telegraph (London), July 11, 2004, at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3608310/The-tearjerker.html (June 22, 2011). See also John Edwards, speech at 2004 Democratic Convention, Boston, at http://www.lademo.org/ht/display/ArticleDetails/i/137615/pid/index.php (June 22, 2011).

[48]John Tierney, “Nader Searches for His Roots” The New York Times, February 15, 2004, at http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/15/politics/campaign/15POIN.html (June 22, 2011).

[49]Children’s Defense Fund, “CDF Calls 12.8 Million Children in Poverty in American Inexcusable,” August 29, 2007, at http://www.childrensdefense.org/newsroom/cdf-in-the-news/press-releases/2007/20070829-census-bureau-poverty-data.html (June 22, 2011).

[50]Catholic Charities USA, “Campaign to Reduce Poverty,” YouTube, November 10, 2008, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZpc-W7yBvg (June 22, 2011).

[51]CBS, “The Talk—Marian Wright Edelman on Children Poverty in America,” YouTube, March 21, 2011, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbvdiX6jbiQ (June 22, 2011).

[52]Jonathon Bloom, “Waste Not, Want Not: Hunger and Food Waste in America,” Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, May 9, 2011, at http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org/ExclusiveCommentary.aspx?id=b8180c74-3b26-4f85-88cb-00860489ec6b(June(June 22, 2011).

[53]Ronald J. Sider, Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2007).

[54] Ibid., p. 31.

[55] Ibid., pp. 32. Ironically, Mrs. Skyles’s circumstances were due, at least in part, to the fact that she had paid a nonprofit group to repair her house, but the work was never performed.

[56] Ibid., p. 36.

[57]On the other hand, many of the anti-poverty policies advocated by Ron Sider are quite reasonable.

[58]Estimate based on data from U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, American Housing Survey.

[59]CBS News, “Poverty at 11-Year High—and Still Rising” September 10, 2009, at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/09/10/eveningnews/main5301548.shtml (June 22, 2011).

[60]NBC News, “Poverty in America,” September 15, 2010, at http://www.heritage.org/multimedia/video/2010/09/rector-nbc-9-16-10 (June 22, 2011).

[61]Lyneka Little, “On the Brink,” ABC News, September 21, 2010, at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Savings/face-poverty-food-banks/story?id=11682134 (June 22, 2011).

[62]ABC News, “Children of the Mountains’ Simple Dreams,” February 13, 2009, at http://abcnews.go.com/video/video?id=6848540 (June 22, 2011). This news piece is actually quite informative. It makes no suggestion that it is portraying a widespread national condition, and it clearly identifies the behavioral and cultural roots of the poverty that it is presenting.

[63]CBS News, “The Other America,” YouTube, October 1, 2008, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N6npQzqwcU (June 22, 2011).

[64]Al Jazeera English, “We the People—Poverty: No Way Out,” YouTube, October 20, 2008, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmaSrg4Ww-E (June 22, 2011).

[65]Al Jazeera, “US Poverty Rate ‘Hits 15-Year High,’” Al Jazeera English, September 16, 2010, at http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/09/2010916182855740657.html (June 22, 2011).

[66]Al Jazeera English, “Poverty USA—Healthcare,” YouTube, November 15, 2007, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUV66P5Lr6Q (June 22, 2011).

[67]Press TV, “Poverty Spikes to Record Highs in U.S.,” Tehran Times, May 8, 2011, at http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=240117 (June 22, 2011).

[68]People’s Republic of China, State Council Information Office, “The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010,” Xinhua News Agency, April 10, 2011, at http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-04/10/c_13822287_5.htm (June 22, 2011).

[69] Ibid. The Chinese reference to 50 million persons in hunger is taken from the USDA’s annual food security report. Nord et al., “Household Food Security in the United States, 2009.” Those who read this report will find that it explicitly does not measure hunger. Moreover, the report asserts that most of the 50 million persons referred to do not experience food shortages. Regrettably, like the Census poverty report, the press consistently misreports the annual USDA food security study abroad and in the U.S. as showing there is widespread hunger in the U.S.

[70]Russia Today America, “The Poor and Impoverished Turn to the Forest,” YouTube, September 16, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGRkC4YM62k (June 22, 2011).

[71]Russia Today, “From Bad to Worse? US Face of Poverty,” YouTube, September 17, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8KS2XFUMYY (June 22, 2011).

[72]Alyona Minkovski, “1 in 7 Americans Poor: How Did This Happen?” The Alyona Show, Russia Today America, September 13, 2010, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjfmccfxTNU (June 22, 2011).

[73]Catholic Charities USA, “Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good,” 2006, p. 1, at http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/Page.aspx?pid=1158 (June 22, 2011).

[74]Catholic Charities USA, “Campaign to Reduce Poverty.”

 

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