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essay: Poverty in America

July 16, 2014

Here are some surprising facts about Americans defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau, all taken from various government reports and included in a new paper from The Heritage Foundation called “Understanding Poverty in the United States”:

— Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

–Fully 92 percent of poor households have a microwave; two-thirds have at least one DVD player and 70 percent have a VCR.

–Nearly 75 percent have a car or truck; 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.

— Four out of five poor adults assert they were never hungry at any time in the prior year due to lack of money for food.

— Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television.

— Half have a personal computer; one in seven have two or more computers.

— More than half of poor families with children have a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.

— Just under half — 43 percent — have Internet access.

— A third have a widescreen plasma or LCD TV.

— One in every four has a digital video recorder such as TiVo.

As noted, TV newscasts about poverty in America usually picture the poor as homeless or as a destitute family living in an overcrowded, rundown trailer. The actual facts are far different: #more#

— At a single point in time, only one in 70 poor persons is homeless.

— The vast majority of the houses or apartments of the poor are in good repair; only 6 percent are over-crowded.

— The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Sweden, France, Germany or the United Kingdom.

— Only 10 percent of the poor live in mobile homes or trailers; half live in detached single-family houses or townhouses, while 40 percent live in apartments.

— Forty-two percent of all poor households own their home; on average, it’s a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.