Nearly 23% Of Mississippians Live In Poverty- What Does That Mean?
If you checked out the Clarion-Ledger or Daily Journal websites today, you probably saw stories about the “swelling” poverty rate in America. In an Associated Press article, we learn that 1 in 6 Americans now officially live below the poverty line according to information provided by the Census Bureau. As you probably imagine, Mississippi has the highest share of these below the poverty line, at 22.7 percent- somewhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 Mississippians.
Naturally, what do you think of when you hear about such poverty? Someone living in a trailer with no electricity or running water? Or how about an old apartment complex with no AC and a rat infestation? And for good measure, throw six or seven people into either of those living situations. And add in kids without a jacket in the winter or supper on the table. And I am sure that is what the casual viewer thinks. And those are certainly deplorable conditions that unfortunately some Americans do suffer from, and without making light of that or downplaying their actual plight, the truth is most of the “poor” in this country aren’t close to living like that.
But the stories in the mainstream media, or what we hear from advocacy groups or certain political leaders, won’t mention this. When you go beyond the Census’ definition of poverty, and look at most situations here is what you find.
First, a look at the percentage of poor households and common amenities:
A refrigerator, television, and stove are nearly universal. A microwave, A.C., VCR/ DVD, and cable/ satellite are up there as well.
When it comes to modern amenities, research has found that those described as poor usually acquire them 10-15 years after the population as a whole. For example, about 40 percent of poor households own a computer. That was the rate for all households in the late 1990s. As with most new inventions or products, many people are priced out of the market at first and the price slowly makes its way down. Any one remember the costs of a microwave in the 1970s or a cell phone in the 1980s (Or an iPhone in 2007 for that matter)?
Regarding the housing situation, data from the government shows that poor Americans are generally well housed and rarely overcrowded. Moreover, the houses of those poor are considered spacious compared to international standards. (Watch an episode of House Hunters International if you don’t believe that).
More data on poor households and homes:
- 43% own their own home
- The average house has three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths, along with a garage
- Only 1 in 10 homes or apartments have moderate physical problems and only two percent live in a home with “severe” physical problems
And lastly, on eating habits, the vast majority had enough food over the past four months prior to the study. Just 7.4 percent said they sometimes or often did not have enough food. See the graph here:
One last thing: the rates of homelessness and food bank/ soup kitchens usage is also vastly overstated by the media.
It is unfortunate that the word poor is used so broadly and everyone gets thrown into poverty together.
This report, Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today, was compiled by The Heritage Foundation. You can read it in its entirety, and check out all the data and statistics, here.