Why is there still poverty in America? | The Economist

Whatever you think poverty today looks like… …it probably doesn’t look much like this In one of the most affluent counties in America… …people are queuing for handouts… …of diapers We’ve had clients come to us that have said… …I’ve rinsed out a diaper and I’ve re-used it… …I’ve turned a diaper inside out and I’ve re-used it Sometimes I’ve left my child in a diaper for far longer than I should have There is no government support in America to help pay for diapers And many poor families struggle to afford them America is the richest big country in the world Its unemployment rate couldn’t be much lower So why does it have so many people living in poverty? In America almost 40m people are living in poverty That’s nearly one-eighth of the population living… …on less than $26,000 a year for a family of four Here’s the thing though… …poverty in absolute terms has actually decreased in recent years But the nature of poverty is changing… …and that change is making it much harder to fight Poverty used to be more of an inner-city phenomenon But as housing costs rocketed, poverty exploded in the suburbs Now there are 3m more poor people in suburbs than cities Yet suburban counties spend one-tenth as much… …to support poor residents as urban counties Which is why some residents of Lake County, Illinois… …depend on charity handouts for diapers Our schedule for the rest of the year So you can come twice a month, just not twice in the same week Ann Marie Mathis is a local mum She set up the charity nine years ago in her basement Initially she distributed second-hand children’s clothes to poor families But soon she found there was an overwhelming need for diapers Diapers costs $70-80 a month per child So that’s an expense that many, many families struggle to afford People are faced with you know not only diaper need… …but by hunger, homelessness It’s very prevalent even here in what’s considered a wealthier community Xavier has been using the diaper pantry for the last few months For her it’s a lifeline Our budget goes on rent and food… …anything that’s not covered by health insurance Let me take this shirt off, you’ve got another one on Clothing is a big thing for five kids There’s a programme, they help out a lot with healthy food And you can get some vouchers with beans, cheese, milk I cook a lot of spaghetti because it usually lasts longer Poverty in America is becoming more concentrated We know that the effect of being poor and living in a poor neighbourhood… …is much worse than being poor and living in an integrated neighbourhood Especially for children, in terms of the kind of school that they go to… …or their exposure to crime And it’s children who are affected the most One child in every six in America is poor I see other families and they’re out enjoying this and they’re at the mall… …or they’re at these events My kids ask and I had to keep saying I can’t, we can’t How did it come to this? To understand we need to go back to the 1960s President Lyndon B. Johnson went on a poverty tour of America And he was so shocked by what he saw he launched an ambitious plan And this administration today, here and now… …declares unconditional war on poverty in America That war involved an array of programmes… …designed to create a safety net… …many of which still exist in some form today These included expanding both the cash benefit for the elderly… …called Social Security, as well as food stamps… …which help poor families buy food And largely they were successful If we look at the data—without the safety-net programmes… …roughly the same number of Americans would be as poor today… …as they were in the 1960s But if you include the effect of the safety-net programmes… …that number comes right down Elder poverty in the 1950s was a huge problem… …but along the way Social Security hugely reduced… …the amount of poverty among the elderly Sounds good, but not if you compare America’s efforts… …with other wealthier countries Before the benefit of safety nets is applied… …America’s poverty rate is comparatively low But with it included, it’s one of the worst performing… …only slightly above Costa Rica In part, that’s because America’s safety-net programmes… …have tended to benefit the elderly more than other groups… …like working-age adults and children Those programmes are not doing as much as they might… …in a country like Finland, for example Finland has a child-poverty rate before taxes and transfers… …that are on par with America And after its safety net kicks in you cut that down to about 3% In America you don’t do that at all Child poverty in America is remarkably high… …for an advanced, developed democracy You have to ask yourself what is the future of a society… …that doesn’t invest in its children? The problem is food stamps, for example… …can only be spent on specific things… …which doesn’t always include the most obvious items Unlike Social Security for the elderly… …whose recipients are handed cash to do as they please It’s lunchtime and back at the pantry it’s been a very busy day We’ve given out 5,925 diapers so far… …with an hour and a half left to go Since Ann Marie started the charity… …she says they’ve given out 1.2m diapers And every week more and more families are registering The safety-net programmes that exist in the United States in general… …do not cover diapers and that’s a common misconception in the community The problem is safety-net programmes are targeted… …so that many people don’t qualify They are restrictive. There are behavioural conditions… …increasingly attached to them… …and all of this can lead to a bureaucratic nightmare of red tape… …from which it’s almost impossible to escape In America there’s an ongoing debate about whether… …giving poor people cash leads to dependency Yet the evidence from other countries… …shows that cash benefits can really help dent poverty Since Canada implemented a child benefit of a few hundred dollars a month… …they have seen their child-poverty numbers decline by about a third It’s reasonable to expect that a programme of similar magnitude in America… …would also generate the exact same effect One candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination… …has even made this a central part of his campaign I’m Michael Bennet from Colorado… Colorado senator, Michael Bennet, has proposed monthly cash transfers… …of $300 for each American child… …as part of wider proposals to help poor people School kids all over this country, they’re living at a time… …when we have got the worst income inequality that we’ve had in 100 years You’ve probably never heard of him… …which tells you a lot about America’s political appetite for reducing poverty Poor people are much less likely to vote… …so their issues are rarely vote-winners If you’re working two jobs… …and trying to make sure your kids are walking safely to school… …in a gang-infested neighbourhood… …are you going to the block party for your member of Congress… …and making a campaign donation so that he or she will listen to you? The pantry’s closing for the day For the families who use it, poverty does not need to be inevitable There is a way out. Other countries around the world have done it It’s really possible Presuming you’re a wealthy country with the resources… …and you have a reasonably strong economy The choice is a political one I know that there’s something better coming… …and then we’ll look back on it like we got through it We’re strong. We’re going to be stronger because of it I’m Anna, the director of this film If you’d like to see more of the journey that brought us to the diaper journey… …you can watch the story behind American poverty… …by clicking on the link opposite The other link will take you to some of the resources that we used… …when we were researching this film… …including other exclusive material Don’t forget to subscribe so you can see all our latest releases… …and if you hit the bell button it will notify you whenever we post a new film Thanks for watching

100 thoughts on “Why is there still poverty in America? | The Economist

  1. This one sided of welfare cheque country. Other's land that hv no welfare cheque, they just don't hv sex n hv babies. Free this n that will bankrupt the government like Finland, Britain, France…

  2. Why do people continue to have children if they can't afford it? While those that can afford it are having difficult time conceiving 🤷.

  3. Ok I'm not gonna judge you for being poor. But FOR GOD'S SAKE STOOOOOOP HAVING CHILDREN!
    The only thing poor people seem to all have in common is too many kids.
    The lady is carrying a baby and pregnant with another!

  4. I don't believe making people dependable is good. It's actually being an enabler into their poverty. Give a peraon tools to make a house not a house. For a house can easily be destroyed but the skill to make it not.

  5. Instead of paying millions in compensation to victims of abuse, the catholic church could have resolved child poverty. After all, they're the ones egging folk on to have big families.

  6. Why not use cloth diapers? They are very inexpensive. You can buy them on Amazon, eBay, even in your local marketplace. Just buy diapers once and reuse them. It’s good for the environment as well.

  7. Unpopular opinion.. if you cannot afford to have children, don't have them. No child should have to suffer, sitting in a dirty diaper, an inside out diaper, a rinsed out diaper, for any reason. This is why we need free access to birth control, and yes, abortion.

  8. This video shows pretty much poor choices taken by poor people. If you're already struggling why have 5 kids??!!! It doesn't take a college degree to know this!

  9. Why do poor people always expect SOMEONE ELSE to get them out of poverty now? Where did this "victim culture" come from?

  10. Many people are still poor because they are lazy and don’t try to achieve in life. She is a very good example: she knew about an interview and yet she couldn’t be bothered to even try cleaning her messy place and shitty habit. Bet she sits on her fat ass for most of the days. Feel sorry for her kids

  11. There is a difference between being poor and making poor decisions. Nobody owes you anything, so don't depend on anyone but yourself. Make your decisions based on that fact and you will do well.

  12. $13 Trillion spent on the war on poverty and the same number of people are still poor, add another $6 trillion for cumulative spent on safety net benefits. Poverty is nature telling you to NOT have children.
    We washed our dirty diapers for my children.
    Green New Deal, climate warming, poverty, all scream STOP having children… This is like ignoring the elephant in the room.

  13. They can't afford better living but choose to have as many children as they can. I feel they use children as a shield for living, thinking people might be benevolent and caring towards the Innocent souls.

  14. Why wouldn't you just get cloth diapers? Children do not deserve to sit in a nasty diaper. That's neglect, I'm sorry, I know I'm being harsh but, it is. Get cloth diapers, take them off, wash and dry them, and use them again. Also, it's better for the environment. Like, why is this a real issue when there's a real solution. I know it's not ideal to wash dirty diapers but, it's also not ok to leave a dirty diaper on your baby.

  15. A person could have become poor after the fact. You don’t know the circumstances. The children are already here. You can’t “don’t have kids” wish them away. Y’all a bunch of butt holes. As if you aren’t on your third ramen noodles today.

  16. the reason people from contrys like this and in my contry (uk) are in poverty is debt lones finance fags drink ect there was a tv program uk welthy people celebs politision lived with people with only pennies left to feed them self and kids in every one they had doorstep loans hp fags ect.if you have low income you cannot have hp fags drink most of all you cannot have kids if you cannot support them kids need more than love it is a fact that poor people tend to have lots of kids and you have to put rent first over everything and look at the food you get i was on the streets 3 years i was given £300 by a person that was 20 years ago i now have a morgage free house car tv phone ect i have never dorowed mony all with £300 and the clothes on my back thanks for reading this you can do it

  17. For rich people to be rich there needs to be poor people.

    For poverty to continue, vote anyone.
    For poverty to continue and for poor people to be sneered at-Vote Trump.
    #Make America Grosser Again.

  18. Embrace education.
    And if you think skin colour is holding you back, get the fuck out of lower Louisiana or Middle Mississippi.

  19. As Muslims
    Americans culture is oil
    And they give Israel 38 billion
    America have meny homeless
    They don't care their own people

  20. It's because housing is not affordable. We allowed housing to be treated as a commodity. People need affordable housing!

  21. I’ve been saying this ever since i took a development economics class over ten years ago:

    America is basically a third world country

  22. Lesson to learn: don't give birth to kids whilst you are poor there seriously needs to be a 2-4 child policy (make so that by 2025 your only allowed to have 2-4 step and biological kids (you can adopt as many kids as you want a still keep all of your current step and biological kids)) around the world the is overpopulated

  23. I think rich Africans with billion dollars in their banks should help out Americans too😂😂😅
    It's funny Americans think Africans are poor while alot of Africans can afford to buy 1 million dollars worth of diapers a month

  24. Stop having kids. Get as much training and education as possible. Don't use credit only get things you can actually pay for without taking away from other things in your life.

  25. Why don’t people move to places they can actually afford? People are scared to downsize when they need to so they can pay for other expenses

  26. In our country, the poor use recyclable diapers, while the United States is getting free diapers, which is ridiculous. If your government has money, why don't you change the education of the next generation, it can get rid of the cycle of poverty.

  27. What happens to the diapers after they are thrown away? They are probably shipped to poorer countries to be dumped there or simply thrown away in the sea. Also, why the fuck does this woman have five kids?

  28. The key thing with the Social Security if the government keep their hands on Social Security trust fund there would be enough Social Security to hand out to everyone including the old and the young who need it!!! Ok y'all I need to edit this if the rich people the pay their fair share of the full taxes you wouldn't be in this situation that were in I'm sorry if you make 10 million dollars you pay taxes on that whole 10000000 decide to standard deductions it's a itemized deduction for individual is ridiculous I can see it for a business but not for an individual no

  29. People in poverty are a commodity. The government taxes the rich to give to the poor, elderly & disabled. However not all funds go directly to these sources. If poverty didn't exist the government wouldn't be able to tax the wealthy as much. Poverty exists because it is a fundamental commodity, help the poor but don't eradicate them.

  30. I used towel nappies when I raised kids…wash and clean it with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar…
    Nappies are a huge plastic pollutant!!!

  31. Amazing how people with cars and airconditioners talk about poverty and their inability to attend concerts and shop at malls. 🤯

  32. As a European, we saw the inequality caused by the neo-liberalists. The rich men are growing much more richer and we are just becoming poorer and poorer. Indeed, we live in a democratic world, yet no party is speaking for us. So the Yellow Vest stood up to take back what is ours, the rich & equality.

  33. The world's people have become economic refugees due to a toxic monetary system!

    Negative interest rates proof of a debt structure failure

  34. What is she thinking of having more when she couldn’t afford the first without assistance? No shit your kids are going without, your unemployed with five kids.. 🤦🏼‍♀️

  35. Hahahahaha!!!! Look at all the Americans getting butthurt about the truth of their country! No country is perfect, BUT, I thank God everyday that I don't have to worry about raising a child in America.

  36. Wonder why black American think to have a child, if they can`t feed there children. Government should stop spending on them and they will control there number of kids.

  37. Where are fathers? Food stamps are sold all the time for drugs beer and smokes iphone bill. Single mothers house boyfriends. There is so much fraud and children suffer. I rent to lower income households and see this.

  38. Start by teaching children financial literacy in public schools. How much cost of living. More likely to consider long term financial consequences.

  39. I know some poorer ppl in Poland. They can’t afford smartphones and cars. They aren’t fat and they doesn’t have such big dirty kitchens. Instead of giving them money, think rather about teaching them how to think and work

  40. Amazing how these people just keep having kids knowing full well they cannot afford them, then whine when they don't have enough money for diapers, etc… How about not having any more kids until you know you can afford to support them.

  41. Capitalism works that way, some must suffer so that others have a motivation To make more and be happy for what they have?

  42. I have to say, I’m so glad light was shed on this subject. However the use of the term “poor people“ and saying how “cash handouts“ enables them, is beyond frustrating. They are Americans living below the poverty line, or Americans living in poverty. “Poor people” has such a negative connotation even one that insinuates “they” are people who are doing little to better themselves. When in fact we ALL know about the cycles of poverty, how difficult it is to remove yourself from the situations. Furthermore, recipients of social security are hardly “given cash to do with as they please”. Aside from saying “poor people” this is the biggest misconception and thorn in my side about this piece, or any journalism on the topic. It is important to point out that those receiving these benefits are Americans who have worked their whole lives and who have paid into the program in the first place. It’s not money to “do with as they please” so much as it is their only source of income in a time when they aren’t able to get jobs due to age or disability. The security often times doesn’t cover the bare minimum needed to sustain a family or even an individual, but is used for rent or mortgage, utilities, bills, food, clothing, medical expenses, and that’s before any miscellaneous or additional use of the money for extra spending i.e movies, concerts, entertainment of any kind. As I previously mentioned it is a program, it was something set up as a piece of legislation as a safety net of sorts basically America’s 401(k) program we realized we desperately needed to help our seniors and those disabled in a way they weren’t taken care of before which is such a disgrace but it’s a program a lot of people say it wasn’t intended to be their only source of income once retired but in a lot of situations as they say here people aren’t always an opportunity to have a great job making six figures plus a pension and a 401(k) with the addition of Social Security. I know this is a long rant and I don’t think there is a one and fix solution to anything but my point is the PT people as “poor people getting handouts” that also a supplemental income that type of handouts people cat even if they were getting the maximum benefits of each type of allowance still wouldn’t be enough to pay for everything that needs to be just to sustain life and that’s without putting anything aside for savings while raising kids.

  43. There is still poverty in America because money is to hard to come by, money is an illusive currency, M$ney is God!… we need money for every thing. Even dirty skanky pussy is expensive. Money makes the world go around. The man who ain't money aint shit!… Money is Honey! and were all screwed without money. MONEY IS GOD!

  44. Get a job before having children. I thought that was common sense.
    Their are wild animals who will not breed if food for the year is lower.

  45. Not everyone is smart. Not everyone can go work at Microsoft so obviously there’s gonna be those who are on the dumber side who will make less money. If your not financially stable and capable of raising a child and paying for his or her needs. Why are you having kids. It’s obviously the people who didn’t think shit through. Don’t have kids if your already living in poverty. Focus on improving your financial situation first then think about children.

  46. Reicher Mann und armer Mann standen da und sah'n sich an.
    Und der Arme sagte bleich: "Wär ich nicht arm, wärst du nicht reich".

  47. Problem is our society pushes kids out of the home as soon as they graduate high school. children staying in the home with their parents/parent to combine income will benefit both the parents and the young adult living situation. The government wants young adults in debt and struggling so the government can have more control over them. our society looks down on people who choose to stay home, but nowadays it's the logical thing to do, cost of living rises consistently, but pay doesn't. The average Household could use more income, whether it be kids stay at home with the rents, or vice versa, it's a win win.. but people would rather rent a room to a stranger, or have their children or parents homeless or struggling paycheck to paycheck. Grandma or grandma could earn income being the childcare while mom and dad work, or mom and dad could benefit from a portion of their parents income for rent. Children are blessings, not burdens. Back in the day if you had no children you had no future.

  48. Why have the children they can't take care of. These people need to keep their clothes on and not have kids they can't take care of. They need to make better choices and they won't have hungry kids and can live a better life. These people need to be more responsible for what they do and not get in bed with the first man that whispers sweet nothings in their ears. I don't think giving these people hand outs is the answer stop giving hand outs make them work for what the get and they won't ask for free stuff any more. Hand outs don't work

  49. 🤣😂🤣😂 I bought the Walmart brand diapers and milk! I would go to once upon a child for lightly used cloths. I still buy my kids cloth at Ross and Marshall’s. I work a full time job and don’t have government funds.

  50. Because rich people more and more always want much money so they are insatiable and for poor people remain nothing. In this way poors will never come out from poverty because there aren’t money for them in the economy.


  52. the reality is this … the middle class is sucked dry by everything and everyone ….the poor ( most poor people are lazy just to make things clear ) these want social welfare they want a free life … who pays ??? do you think you can take a $ from the rich ?? the rich are impossible to touch they run the world they manipulate governments end result is these people wanna live an eternally free lazy life on the backs of middle class very hard working ever struggling to pay taxes

    the middle class is the biggest victim that existed .. the poor get stuff for free and still complain … and the rich never stop getting richer … and the middle class has to work more hours every week just to keep its status

    really disgusting

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