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Poverty & Inequality

MyHeritage.com, Hat tip: Jean Nelson

For most Americans, the word “poverty” suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. Advocates of the welfare state often urge large expansions of welfare spending to combat allegedly “widespread” poverty in America, yet only a small portion of the 37 million persons classified as “poor” by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is much more limited in scope and severity than one might imagine. The typical American categorized as “poor” by the government has not only a refrigerator, a stove, and a washing machine, but also a car, home air conditioning, a microwave, a color TV, a VCR, and a stereo. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. He is able to obtain medical care. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds to meet his essential needs during the past year. This individual’s life is not opulent, but it is also far from the popular images of poverty conveyed by politicians, the press, and activists.
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