The conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, has just released a study questioning whether the U.S. Census Bureau should allow Americans with a multitude of unnecessary electronic devices to be considered “in poverty.”
According to the most recent Census, 21.8 percent of Mississippians live below poverty level, as opposed to 14.3 percent nationally. According to USDA numbers reported by the Wall Street Journal, Mississippi has a higher percentage of its population — 20.8 percent — on food stamps than any other state in the nation. (See July 1 Business Blog post.)
The title of the Heritage study is “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?”
For decades, the U.S. Census Bureau has reported that over 30 million Americans were living in “poverty,” but the bureau’s definition of poverty differs widely from that held by most Americans. In fact, other government surveys show that most of the persons whom the government defines as “in poverty” are not poor in any ordinary sense of the term.
The overwhelming majority of the poor have air conditioning, cable TV, and a host of other modern amenities. They are well housed, have an adequate and reasonably steady supply of food, and have met their other basic needs, including medical care. Some poor Americans do experience significant hardships, including temporary food shortages or inadequate housing, but these individuals are a minority within the overall poverty population.
Many think of poverty as hunger and possibly homelessness. Heritage found that according to 2005 Census numbers, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning, two color TVs, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player and a VCR.
What do you think?