The Census Bureau will release its annual report on poverty in America tomorrow. The report will show, as it has in recent years that around 37 million people live in official poverty. Presidential candidate John Edwards, who hopes to lead the nation in a new crusade against poverty, will, no doubt, seek to reap much publicity from the report.
In the past, Edwards has claimed that poverty in America is a "plague" which forces 37 million Americans to live in "terrible" circumstances. According to Edwards, an amazing "one in eight" Americans lack "enough money for the food, shelter, and clothing they need," caught in a daily "struggle with incredible poverty." However, examination of the living standards of the 37 million or so persons, the government defines as "poor," reveals that America's poverty "plague" may not be as "terrible" or "incredible" as anti-poverty crusader Edwards contends.
If being "poor" means (as Edwards claims it does) a lack of nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, then very few of America's 37 million official "poor" people can be regarded as actually poor. Some material hardship does exist in the United States, but, in reality, it is quite restricted in scope and severity. The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from a variety of government reports:
46 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
Only six percent of poor households are overcrowded; two thirds have more than two rooms per person. The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
Nearly three quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars. 97 percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions....
As a group, America's poor are far from being chronically undernourished. The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and, in most cases, is well above recommended norms. Poor children actually consume more meat than do higher-income children and have average protein intakes 100-percent above recommended levels. Most poor children today are, in fact, super-nourished and grow up to be, on average, one inch taller and ten pounds heavier than the GIs who stormed the beaches of Normandy in World War II......
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