The Myths of Poverty
Updated: May 22
Sometimes, poverty can be completely invisible to those around it. Society has created a certain view of poverty. For a person to be living in poverty they’re probably homeless and lazy, right? Wrong. In reality, poverty could be right next door to you under the veil of a happy, perfect life in the suburbs. People living on a fixed income may not make enough money to pay their bills, and those struggling on minimum wage likely have trouble feeding their families. And if the working poor do make enough money for food – or visit a food bank to fill their cabinets – they might not have enough money for basic necessities, such as first aid and personal hygiene items. Poverty myths are causing us to overlook many people struggling to make ends meet and supply for basic needs, such as soap or toothpaste. We’re here to debunk these myths and show the realities of poverty. Laziness breeds poverty Many people believe the poor are lazy, and if they would just apply themselves, they would be fine. However, this mentality overlooks the working poor, which includes approximately 9.5 million people in the U.S. each year. The working poor spend at least 27 weeks per year working and yet they fall below the poverty level. These individuals might be seasonal workers, those who lose their jobs mid-year or those who suffer an injury and are unable to continue working. Some of these workers are forced to work part-time so that employers won’t have to pay insurance. And even if they are eligible for SNAP benefits, many assistance programs don’t provide hygiene products or necessities, including toilet paper and cleaning products. The poor prefer to stay poor Another pervasive myth is that poor people choose to stay poor. The reality is that in most cases, people who are raised in poverty live in communities where there are very few options that can lift them out of their circumstances. For example, higher education is generally not an option for these poor individuals and so they get trapped in minimum wage jobs that leave them in poverty long term. And without necessary essentials, such as hygiene products, they struggle to make a good first impression during job interviews to rise out of poverty. Middle-class poverty In 2011, the U.S. coined a new term called middle-class poverty. This type of poverty often comes with debt from student loans or unexpected health care expenses. While many people believe that poverty means those who are lazy and jobless, poverty can also happen in families where two people are working but still living paycheck to paycheck. And if one person loses a job, that family is suddenly thrown into a poverty scenario. Since most people keep silent, you may not realize your neighbor, a friend or family member is experiencing poverty. Ending the poverty myths To effect real change, we have to stop spreading these poverty myths and reframe our thinking of what poverty really means in the U.S. Many living in poverty are working hard to find a way out, but are trapped by their circumstances. If we can debunk these myths we can help lift others out of poverty and provide for their most basic needs to offer dignity and relief.