Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From the Prosperity Desk: Some Math On Being Poor

Written by Kamalah Fletcher, Community Prosperity Director
The Prosperity Campaign helps people
meet their basic needs.
A single person making $40,000 a year may think of herself as “poor” because she ran over budget this month or cannot buy the things she wants. According to federal poverty guidelines, what poverty actually looks like these days is a family of 3 making about $19,000 a year or less

Let me break it down even further: $19,000 gross gives you about $15,200 take home, which gives you $1,266 take home monthly. Based on the standard measure of "affordable housing," which dictates a household should spend around 30% or less of their income on housing, you'll want to budget just $380 a month for rent. Think about where you live and the availability of safe, quality housing. Is this enough? Add two more mouths to feed, clothe, transport and entertain. Can you make it on such a budget? In 2011, there were 46.2 million people figuring out how to get by while living in poverty.

To give you some perspective, $19,000 was my yearly salary when I was working full-time as a preschool teacher in college. I was only taking care of myself and still finding it hard to pay rent, go to school, buy heating oil and get around. When I was young and idealistic, I made the decision to sacrifice personal luxury so I could always do work that was meaningful to me. However, this is not a choice for the average person living at the poverty line. Their income is hard earned, and sometimes the fruit of two people’s labor!

Every day in the Prosperity Campaign, we help people whose lives mirror this story. Do you hear about these things when you listen to the public debate on cutting programs that help the poor?  Instead of simply demanding that the “poor” pick themselves up out of poverty, let's tell stories about how policy impacts real people’s lives!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Kamalah for breaking it down. We at Catalyst know that this is reality for too many in Miami, which is still one of the poorest city in the US. The Prosperity Campaign makes a difference for thousands every year.