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Nearly 23% Of Mississippians Live In Poverty- What Does That Mean?

September 13, 2011

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.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    September 13, 2011 5:41 pm

    Yeah, screw those poor people and their refrigerators. What gives them the right to think that they should be able to safely store food? And look! More than half of them don’t even have to use a clothesline!!!

    • Sue permalink
      September 14, 2011 5:23 am

      Don’t forget ceiling fans…….nothing spells living high on the hog like having a ceiling fan!

  2. Republican Dawg permalink
    September 13, 2011 6:57 pm

    What- 46% don’t have a cell phone? I’m sure Obama will get on that and make sure we continue to pay for all these necessities in life and make sure no one feels left out.

  3. Capt Warren permalink
    September 13, 2011 8:50 pm

    Ugh, there are already pre-paid cell phones for the “poor”.

  4. September 13, 2011 11:43 pm

    Interesting that you did not include the actual definition of living in poverty used by the Census. According to footnote 2 of the Heritage study, a family of four making less than $21,954 is living in poverty. That would be $1829 per month, $457 per week, or $16 per day per person. Seriously, $16 to cover all meals, bills, clothes, transportation, and, god forbid, something to temporarily let you forget you are living on $16 per day. If you are looking for an argument for cutting social programs, claiming that living in poverty is “really not that bad” is a cheap rationalization that should not help you sleep at night.

    • Oh Really permalink
      September 14, 2011 8:37 am

      Ok so $22,000- of course that is before Section 8 pays for all or most of your rent. That is before food stamps pay for all or most of your groceries. That is before WIC, before various free health insurance programs (free clinics, Medicaid, CHIP, etc).

      One of the funny things you mentioned was transportation. We’ll assume most people below the poverty line by used cars. Thanks to Obama’s grand Cash for Clunkers program, we have destroyed how many perfectly good used cars and helped drive up those costs?

      But that is just a side point. All this post did was expose what the media and liberals drum up, and that has more to do with their anger about this post than anything else. Im willing to help the vulnerable, but Im not willing to buy them an Xbox or flat screen tv.

      • Carunzel permalink
        September 14, 2011 10:55 am

        You have no knowledge whatsoever of the situation. Unfortunately, the only way to really understand it is to live it and you will probably never have to. All the statistics in the world cannot make people who do not live in poverty understand what it’s like, but the real tragedy is that people who have more than enough think they are somehow deserving of it when the reality is that they usually work no harder than the poor for what they have and are certainly no more virtuous.

        • Teaching at home permalink
          September 14, 2011 1:14 pm

          No!!! It comes down to poor choices. Children in America are given a free education and they bully teachers for holding them accountable. The only time parents can come to a school is to “cuss out that teacher” and don’t let me forget, “I’m gonna get her job.” Everyone in America has a chance to make it out of poverty. They decided not to. Even in the worst schools their are teachers who would give till it hurt to help a child learn. Mama and Grandma just don’t seem to care as much about education as getting a check and bullying someone in authority.

  5. Jerry Frey permalink
    September 14, 2011 3:19 am

    by state graphic

  6. Republican Dawg permalink
    September 14, 2011 2:35 pm

    At least one Democrat is being honest about she feels about OUR money:

    Direct quote: “You don’t deserve to keep all of it (your money).” Glad to know what I do and don’t deserve. Glad to know some lady from Chicago can tell me what I can do with it.

  7. Travis Rose permalink
    September 14, 2011 2:41 pm

    These numbers represent “relative poverty”. This 22k income should accurately adjust with inflation and the (real) CPI. The Obama Admin seems to have frozen this income level in the definition “poverty level”. Had this level been appropriately adjusted to reflect the increased cost of food, gas, energy, insurance, healthcare and others. Then the percentage living under the threshold would be even higher.

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