How Poor is Poor?

posted by Adam (Southern California) on March 31st, 2006

Here’s an interesting article in the New Yorker about relative vs. absolute poverty. A number of people, self included, have pointed out that many poor people in America routinely own items once considered luxuries or are in some other ways better off than poor people, or even, to a certain extent, the middle class were a generation ago. The article takes this as a starting point but then makes the argument that relative poverty, not absolute poverty, is what actually counts, and that relative poverty has real effects. In other words, just because poor people are likely to own TVs now doesn’t mean that poverty isn’t still a bad thing. (Another way of looking at that would be to say that owning a TV or a dishwasher doesn’t really matter much when discussing “poverty” as a concept.)

The article doesn’t really go much into what sort of nutrition the poor in America are getting now vs. a generation ago, and it would be worth examining ways in which the poor might be worse off even in absolute terms than in years past.

And of course, we’re speaking of “the poor” as one large group that might include everyone from the absolutely destitute to those who might be better off but not exactly comfortable. Disaggregating the stories could make a more vivid picture of the situation.

Published in: General | on March 31st, 2006 | Permanent Link to “How Poor is Poor?” | No Comments »

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