Re: Poverty

Chuck Coker (cjcoker@CRIS.COM)
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 15:57:01 -0700

Ronald Kephart wrote:
> In message <> Ronald Kephart [me] writes:
> > CNN today reports that about 24% (don't recall exact figure)
> > of Americans are living below poverty level, the highest rate in the
> > industrialized world. Second place goes to Canada, with about 12%. Does
> > anthropology have anything to say about this?
> Actually, what I misunderstood when I first head the newscast was that these
> figures represent percentages of CHILDREN living in poverty. The figures were
> more like 22% for the US, about 12% for Canada, and about 2% I think for
> Finland. CNN pointed out that Japan was not listed at all; it would be
> interesting to know whay some countries were included, others not.

I see poverty figures all the time. One thing that is seldom mentioned,
or at least, not noticed by me, is how poverty is defined. Suppose that
poverty is considered a family of four making below US$30,000 per year.
(Gee, must be a school teacher!) Where I live now, in Orange County,
California, that is definitely poverty! A single person would have a hard
time living on that amount. Until June of this year, I lived on the Hualapai
Indian Reservation in Arizona. I made about US$16,000 per year, and I have
a wife and three kids still living at home. This would seem to be poverty.
However, we received a free house as part of my job, free utilities, etc.
Our only expense was food and telephone. We had more money to blow on stupid
things than we do now with both of us working. Our cost of living was so
low that the amount of money I made seemed almost obscene. That is just
poverty as measured in dollars. If one counts spiritual poverty, we were
far richer on the reservation than we are now in "rich" Orange County.
(There was also free medical care on the reservation through the Indian
Health Service.)

Poverty measures have to factor in a lot more than just a dollar amount.
My two cents.

Chuck Coker

PS: As far as which countries are listed, if the point is to make sensational
headlines, like the Los Angeles Times is so fond of doing, any country
with a higher poverty rate would have to be deleted from the list, i.e.,
the US has to be the worst. (The Los Angeles Times is very biased in their
reporting--Clinton/Democrat/Liberal, good thing; Dole/Republican/Conservative,
bad thing. Both groups have good and bad ideas, but the LAT slants their
articles to favor the Clinton/Democrat/Liberal agenda.)

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