Americans, listen up. Far too many people have misconceptions about poverty, according to hundreds of people who took to an online forum. The troubling part? You might be poor even though you don’t see yourself that way.
Note: Some quotes in this piece have been lightly edited for grammar.
1: Poor Is Blind
“A lot of people I know don’t realize that they are poor,” muses one person. “A lot of other people that I know don’t realize how close they are to being poor.”
2: Middle-Class Conundrums
One commenter argues that politicians speak to the “middle” class the most since most Americans are under the impression that they fit into that category. “People living in boxes and people buying their third yacht all think they’re middle class,” they say.
3: You Must Be Thin
It’s a common misconception that to be poor, you must be thin. But between junk food often being cheaper than healthy food and food assistance programs in the U.S., plenty of people are poor and overweight.
4: The Poor Are Lazy
“You can work absolutely crazy hours and be in poverty,” says a frustrated commenter. One’s location and financial responsibilities play a significant role in whether one person is poor and the other is middle class under the same pay conditions.
5: Middle Class Can’t Become Poor
It’s all too easy for the middle class to slip into poverty, says one person. “If you have a single-income blue-collar family, you are basically always one injury/medical emergency away from poverty.”
6: Paycheck to Paycheck
In the past, there used to be a clearer distinction between the middle class and the poor. Nowadays, “there’s far too much middle class existing from paycheck to paycheck,” says one commenter. “That used to be a definition for lower-middle class/poor.”
7: Being Poor Is Easy
“It’s odd how often I see working people showing envy towards unemployed people as if it’s some cushy life,” observes one person. The catch? “None of them have ever accepted an offer to trade places.”
8: Work Harder
The concept that if the poor worked harder, they wouldn’t be in poverty is a common misconception. Sometimes, going to school or working harder isn’t as easy or life-saving as it may seem. Medical bills, physical or mental limitations, childcare, and other factors can hinder a person’s ability to work harder.
9: Individual vs System
The two biggest misconceptions that people have are the following, according to one person:
1: “It’s always the fault of the individual and not the system.”
2: “It’s always the fault of the system and not the individual.”
10: The Poor Should Eat Anything
It’s not okay to give expired food to food banks, says a pantry volunteer. Furthermore, they say the idea that the poor should be grateful for anything to eat when people use it to justify cleaning out their pantry isn’t right. “There is nothing I can do with a dented can of green beans that expired during the Obama administration,” they say.
11: Substance Abuse Is the Issue
One commenter says it bothers them when people believe all homeless people have substance abuse issues. They say they’ve heard some stories from the homeless about how they got into their situation. Losing their family in a house fire and getting let go from a job were among the reasons.
They urge people not to judge the homeless, saying anything can happen to any of us in the blink of an eye.
12: Earning Your Circumstances
A person who defines themself as poor says that one of the biggest misconceptions they hear about poverty is “that people’s circumstances are always earned.” They point out that people born into poverty don’t have the same opportunities as middle-class and wealthy children. Many people have situations beyond their control, including “health, disability, intellectual abilities, or environmental and economic circumstances.”
13: Spending Gifts of Money
Not giving the poor cash because you’re afraid of them spending it on alcohol or other substances is a common misconception, says one commenter. While this may be the case in some circumstances, it’s unfair to say that all poor people will spend gifts of money poorly.
14: So Shocking
A Slovenian says they’re “stunned” by the number of poor people in the U.S. “Americans are all about money, and yet they have an insane amount of homeless people.” They claim that while Slovenia “barely has any money,” they “have no homeless.”
15: Poor Look
“Not everyone who ‘looks poor’ is poor,” says one person. They describe someone they knew who lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in a run-down building and worked “a fairly menial job.” After saving nearly all her money, the woman retired before she was 60 with nearly $1 million.
16: Poor Hygiene
Being poor doesn’t automatically equate someone to having bad hygiene. Plenty of people aren’t poor financially but are poor on the hygiene front.
17: Food Stamps Are Easy
Getting government support for low-income aid like food stamps and unemployment is far from easy, despite what many wealthier people believe, says a commenter. There are “endless hoops and phone calls and paperwork to continuously prove that you deserve food/housing/healthcare.”
18: Can’t Have Nice Things
Several people brought up the point that many Americans believe the poor shouldn’t have anything nice. The issue? Many poor and homeless people didn’t start out that way; getting laid off, losing their house to a fire, and massive medical bills can all send people into the poor category. That said, they still may have nice jewelry, a good car, etc., from when they were more financially well off.
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