Here is a snapshot of America's poor:
- 46 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
- 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
- Only six percent of poor households are overcrowded; two thirds have more than two rooms per person. The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
- Nearly three quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
- 97 percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
- 78 percent have a VCR or DVD player. 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
- 89 percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR, or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.
The next time John Edwards or some other pandering politician talks about the "poor," consider how today's American poor live, compared to the lifestyles of our parents and grandparents.