Mark R. Rank wants to bust some myths regarding poverty in America:
They include the notion that poverty affects a relatively small number of Americans, that the poor are impoverished for years at a time, that most of those in poverty live in inner cities, that too much welfare assistance is provided and that poverty is ultimately a result of not working hard enough. Although pervasive, each assumption is flat-out wrong.
Professor Rank has done the research and concludes that poverty is a “mainstream event” that will touch most Americans:
Contrary to popular belief, the percentage of the population that directly encounters poverty is exceedingly high. My research indicates that nearly 40 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 will experience at least one year below the official poverty line during that period ($23,492 for a family of four), and 54 percent will spend a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line).
Even more astounding, if we add in related conditions like welfare use, near-poverty and unemployment, four out of five Americans will encounter one or more of these events.
In addition, half of all American children will at some point during their childhood reside in a household that uses food stamps for a period of time.
What would you think if your pediatrician asked: “Do you find yourself running out of money to pay for food and shelter?”
Would a doctor be prying if he asked: “Do you have trouble feeding your family?”
Would you be uncomfortable if I asked you: “Do you have a safe and clean place to live?”
Should doctors treat poverty like a disease and “work it up?” Physicians in Canada think so. Tomorrow I’ll have more on steps Canadian doctors are taking to screen their patients for poverty.