What It Means To Be Poor In America

Mark Perry nudged me the other day.  We hear so much how bad it is in America.  That the middle class is “under attack” and only the Government can save them.  Further, the health care debate has pointed out that America spends more on health care than any other nation in the world.

Data from a report by two Swedish researches illuminates some very interesting facts:

  1. The ratio of people living in poverty is shrinking

1959 1999
Whites 18 10
Blacks 55 24
Hispanics 23(1972) 23
Total 22 12

2.  Being poor does not mean living without

Home Ownership 45.9
Car 72.8
2 or more cars 30.2
Air conditioning 76.6
Refrigerator 96.9
Washing machine 64.7
Drying cabinet/tumbler drier 55.6
Dishwasher 33.9
Garbage disposal 29.7
Microwave 73.3
Colour TV 97.3
2 or more colour TV sets 55.3
Cable or satellite TV 62.6
Wide screen TV 26.3
Video or DV 78
2 or more video and DVD players 25.3
Stereo 58.6
Telephone answering machine 35.3
Mobile phone 26.6
PC 24.6
Internet access 18


3.  Being poor in America is better than being average in the EU

People Sq Feet per person
Europe, average 2.5 976.5 395.7
USA, poor  1993 2.8 1228 438.6
USA, all  1993 2.6 1875 721.2

What does this tell us?  It tells us that being poor in America means that you have a bigger house than the average European.  It tells us that whatever we have been doing, we should do more of it.  And that any modeling on Europe would be a mistake.

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