Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Poverty Economics 101

Thanks to Single Ma at Fabulous Financials for referencing this Washington Post article about the high cost of being poor.

I live in a transitioning urban neighborhood that has traditionally been home to a majority of African American residents. Over the 16 years I've lived here, it has become increasingly trendy. That means we finally got a supermarket--two of them, in fact. But for years, the only grocery stores within walking distance were small and expensive neighborhood operations. The housing stock is old--great for yuppie rehabbers, but less satisfactory for families who have lived here since their homes were built in the 1930's and '40's. We have the second highest crime rate in our city, recently edged out of first place by a low-income white neighborhood on the other side of town. Our insurance rates reflect this.

Professionally, I work with and for poor people. For all my whining about my finances, I am grateful NOT to be in their shoes. I DO have a washer and dryer. I DO have the funds to replace my ten-year-old van when it finally dies. I DO have a bank account--more than one, in fact, so there's no charge to cash my checks.

Recently, a friend griped to me about all the "benefits" a "welfare mom" gets. He started off with subsidized housing. I responded that in our city, less than 12% of the poor have subsidized housing. The rest pay market rates for what are often substandard apartments--the kind of places that don't ask questions about prior evictions or require that the family make 3 times the rent each month. He was surprised to find that food stamps are based on a PERCENTAGE of what a single person or family needs to feed themselves for a month, and that the percentage is NOT 100%.

As the Washington Post article says, "You have to be rich to be poor."


Anonymous said...

I wish I had the answers. This country of ours should not allow any one to be homeless or hungry.

Keep up your good work.

Florence said...

And most don't have health insurance. One of the kids gets sick, it's an all day wait at the ER and that means no pay for missing work and maybe losing the job altogether. Then there is not being able to afford both their blood pressure meds and their insulin so they alternate days. I work in health care (I'm a pharmacist.) and see it EVERY DAY. We can spend billions on stupid, idotic, endless wars but we can't make sure our own people can have some level of basic medical care. Now that sends my blood pressure up.

Retired Syd said...

I guess it's just a sign of the times, the poor-bashing we're seeing in the media and hearing from our acquaintances. How far we've fallen that we begrudge the group that actually has the least.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. We as a society try and provide for the most basic of needs to be met for those most in need (although it's arguable whether we are achieving this while 45 million of our citizens are without health care). It's called living in civilized society.

Jerry said...

What you're doing is remarkable. It's too bad that you have to pay for it in high insurance rates but you are making a difference in people's lives. I would imagine that your work and presense might have contributed to the increasing popularity of your area. You could have simply moved which is what most people do. But, maybe your example leads other to want to live there and make it a better place.