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  1. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Active Member

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    What's it like to live at the poverty line?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Accelerator231, Sep 9, 2019.

    2010 America. Big city. Parents own a cafe. They aren't starving, but they're definitely not rich and willing to splurge.
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    If they own property they probably aren't at the poverty line tbh

    there's an interesting article here https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2018/09/26/philadelphias-poor-experiences-from-below-the-poverty-line

    and a short film here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-47171130/escobares-texas-life-in-the-poorest-city-in-the-us
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-39122283/the-us-poverty-challenge-facing-donald-trump
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  3. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    A poverty line scenario:

    Most probably the parents are keeping their small business afloat by the skin of their teeth. You know: loans, daily calculations upon every little thing and god forbid they come across a medical emergency. It's a daily struggle. If a screw gets loose, then everything might collapse. Stress levels are high in these situations so they might also fight and create a gloomy atmosphere at home. I don't mean huge fights necessarily, but I do believe that the household economy directly influences the moods of those who sustain it. That's why the parents might be neglectful of the kids as well. Not in an extreme way, but let's say that they won't be considered mother or father of the year. This might be good though in a sense, since the kids might grow up more independant and reliable, but this really depends. It might also have the exact opposite effect.

    Most probably the kids don't get pocket money, or if they do, it's only for some cheap snack to eat at school (it's cheaper to have something prepared from home). Furthermore, since the kids won't be having their desires met (consumer-wise), if they get pocket money, they save it in order to buy whatever it is they wish to buy, meaning they skip lunch perhaps to buy a T-shirt they want or whatever.

    If there are at least 2 kids, be certain that the 2nd one gets its clothes from the older sibling. Or cousins. Or friends. Clothing trades happen all the time between close friends if the sizes are similar.

    The kids help in the family business.

    I wouldn't know about vacations. Somewhere cheap. Perhaps at a relatives place.

    ETA: I forgot! The house heating system only works under extreme cold conditions. It's very expensive.
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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    Agree. And if they own a cafe, at least they'll have a food supply. More likely the poverty line will be experienced by the dishwasher making minimum wage with 2 kids.
     
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  5. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    One could certainly be a property owner at the poverty line if that property was a home that was paid off decades ago and isn't worth much money, as is the case with lot of elderly people who are down to their Social Security income, particularly in rural areas and older suburbs of some cities. The next town over from my mother's old neighborhood was that sort of area.

    But a cafe owner, in a big city? No way would they be at the poverty line. Rents/mortgages and restaurant costs are too high. Could they be having trouble making ends meet? Yep. But could they own a cafe with an on-paper income that meets the current US federal poverty line (which I just Googles and is $21,000 per year for a family of 3)? No. The poverty guidelines go by yearly gross income, not net after spending, What you're talking about isn't the poverty line.

    Source: https://aspe.hhs.gov/2019-poverty-guidelines
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    if you read the George Pellacanos books about Washington DC (fiction but with a solid grounding in fact).. when the MC Derek Strange is young his family live the kind of life you are talking about... they aren't poor poor but they don't have a lot of cash - Derek's father Darius is a short order cook in a cafe, while his mother Althea works as a cleaner.

    There is no way that they would have that life if Darius owned the cafe rather than just working in it. They pay rent on a row house (although when hes grown up Derek buys it - he's first a cop and then a PI)
     
  7. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Active Member

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    So basically they work in a cafe instead? Like, say, the dishwasher/ cook/ waitress?
     
  8. EFMingo

    EFMingo A Nefarious Flamingo Contributor

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    Yeah, this is middle class. No where near poverty levels.

    Yeah, or more likely, one works and the other takes care of the family. Probably have their home and low rent from section 8 pricing. Food stamps and possibly welfare.

    Depends on the area too. For me in local San Diego, poverty line for a family of four is $31000 a year. That's pretty high. A lot of people struggle to survive here.
     
  9. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Active Member

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    So most are hand me downs, food stamps... what do poor people in America eat? Lots of junk food?
     
  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    How are you all defining the poverty line? I always thought it was the bare minimum income required to cover base expenses incurred in a year. So if someone owned property and a business, as long as that business was only breaking even, or even enough to support the owner with no extraneous profit, then that person would still be at the poverty line, wouldn't they?
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    except that the business would be an asset they could sell..

    thee are two types of poverty relative poverty and absolute poverty... the relative poverty line is determined as above per shens post. The UN define absolute poverty as those with less than 1.50 USD per day.... these people are mostly although not exclusively in the third world
     
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  12. Katibel

    Katibel Member

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    Well, I grew up on the relative poverty line.

    My parents made...$15,000 - $20,000 a year? If they were good and not getting laid off. My parents were on welfare, clipped coupons, visited food boxes, thrift shopped, wore hand-me-down clothes, and paid high interest on all their bills because they refused to pay above minimum. And, they splurged. A lot. Ice cream, candies, soda, sugary cereals, rental movies almost every other night--and more, yet the car (a wedding gift) has been on its last legs for the past decade, skirting ruin as they manage it just enough to keep it running. They took things, such as computers, from our family business and used them under the pretense that they would be returned (but instead became old and were tossed, new ones purchased with "borrowed" money). They were blessed with a house for their wedding (completely paid off), a garbage man who took our bags of trash for nothing, and free storage for all the items they hoarded, but treated these things as if they were owed them, then complained when it was all taken away. Instead of working harder, they lied to get loans for maxed-out credit cards or to send me to cheap schools, and in the end had to mortgage the house, which they lost after filing bankruptcy.

    There was a lot of opportunity for them to carry themselves higher, but they prioritized their vices.

    Me, as the child, I hated being poor and my parent's behavior led me to believe that money solves problems. Yet I've never known a single person who lives on the poverty line or was homeless who either wasn't a teenager or didn't have a lot of mental anguish or vices to overcome. I'm not sure it's possible to be so poor without also being somewhat inefficient (*Barring outlying situations), because I ended up marrying a very hardworking man who took us both from our poor roots to middle class in just under four years (his parents have been doing much better, too, as his father has been overcoming a lot of his old, debilitating issues and his mother started working). We've even considered starting a small cafe or diner, which we absolutely wouldn't if we were struggling to make ends meet. And we would absolutely sell if it was the only way to pull ourselves out of a rut.

    I honestly can't see anyone who owns a cafe in a big city straddling the poverty line unless it was a story about how they lost all their assets or spent all their savings to start the business (financial margins in the food industry are slim, so that would be a massive risk). It would be worse if they got a loan to start the business, since they would then have the overhead of two properties, including stocking / furnishing the business, on top of the loan's bill (not to mention what surprise emergencies can ring up). If they're not accounting for all potential expenditures and income then they would likely lose the business. Or wait several decades and rack up an impossible debt that leads them to bankruptcy / jail time.

    And yes, I grew up on junk food. Fast food, mostly.

    My husband's parents were better, they fed their many children homecooked vegetable water (much healthier, actually).

    [EDIT: *]
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019
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  13. MusingWordsmith

    MusingWordsmith Lively Fred

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    Not me, but my dad grew up in poverty and I remember some anecdotes about it. One of the things that is sticking out in my mind is that his dad, my Grandpa, would find the cheapest places possible to rent, and wouldn't even pay it sometimes I think, and then after they moved out/got kicked out, the place would get condemned fairly often.

    Question though, does your story need your family to be in poverty? Or would maybe a poorer but not poverty-stricken family work better?
     
  14. Accelerator231

    Accelerator231 Active Member

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    Just... Poorer.
     
  15. marshipan

    marshipan Senior Member

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    I live "at the poverty line" but come from an upper middle background. Therefore I can really discern the differences. Your clothes are old--worn down, holes, don't fit the best, and have had them for a long while. You wear a lot of the "better" clothes over and over and move on to the more worn out ones when you must. My new clothes are partially worn in thrift store finds on 75% off day. Buying unnecessary items is a treat. I get excited when I can buy a few cheap things that have no purpose other than making me happy. That sometimes includes my own personal shampoo compared to sharing the Head&Shoulders family size bottle everyone else in the house uses.

    My house is constantly in a state of needing work. The carpet needs replacing, the walls need to be finished painting, there is a gap in the back door...but if it doesn't need IMMEDIATE fixing then it doesn't happen. So for instance, if the roof isn't falling in, it's good to go until it does. Cars are old and do break down. When they do break down it can take weeks to get them going again. You don't take them to a mechanic, you google until you can figure out how to fix it yourself. You do everything yourself.

    Food...that depends on the people a lot. Fast food and take out pizza are not cheap. Yet I know relatively poor people who still eat it a lot. I don't. We rarely ever eat out and when we do it is almost always because family is visiting us and paying for it. I cook all our meals, and I do a good variety but I like to cook. On Food Stamps I cannot get away with buying microwave meals for dinners, or special snack items. When I do then I run out of food money early at we have to start clearing out the pantry items. Simple, cheap meals is what we have. Frozen vegetables, beans, chicken, fresh fruit on sale are the main components. Dried seasonings, no fresh herbs. Things aren't tasteless and bland but they can be simple. Since I can no longer just shop for the Hell of it I get off on grocery shopping. I get very excited about something on sale that I want to try or that adds a little more variety.

    Now, my extended family is decidedly not poor. Therefore I do not have the same problems others in my position would have. If I ever really need something I can't afford then I can borrow money from family. I'm still stressed constantly about money though. It's a constant pressure on your mind and every purchase feels like a big deal. Things can sometimes feel like they are just getting progressively worst. The house is just getting more out of shape, the clothes more worn out, and etc. Outside of poverty the goal is to improve things, while poor the goal is to try and keep things from getting worse.

    You don't pay bills until they are threatening to turn off the electric or etc. Phones get cut off before you pay the bill. You have particular and limited special things you pay for because everyone pays a little for extra items if they can. For instance, we buy the cheap Netflix plan. That's one of the few luxury buys we have at a whopping $9/month.

    I think it's important to stress the stress of the situation though. I used to not care what others think, now I'm constantly wondering if I look poor and feel like an outsider. I used to make little purchases and be happy. Now little purchases can make me feel nervous. I'm always wondering about the money, the bills, what we NEED to buy this week, next week, and etc. Do we really need the cough medicine or can the kids keep coughing another couple days? I can only imagine how much worst this might be without having a family that can help out, or not knowing if things will ever change. I know things will change once I can get back to work and I know my family can always lend me money if I really need it. Which I have plenty of times.
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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    Attempting to acquire similar data for Providence, RI. It's quite the rabbit hole. Apparently 26.9% of the city is below the poverty line. And Hispanics outnumber White Only (which I suppose I am). And my industry, food service, is the fourth largest.
     
  17. Malisky

    Malisky Mercury Retroblade Contributor

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    This is interesting. I thought that what the poverty line is was pretty clear. Since I disagree with most of the posts shared here, but yet, I am not American (I thought poverty line was a universal aspect in the western world at least, today) I researched a bit more, just to be sure. It's a different economical class being on the poverty line and being under the poverty line, which basically means you are poor. Not being poor, doesn't mean you are middle class. One day you might own property, a car, a business, but the next you might lose it all. Being on the poverty line means you are neverending juggling in order to keep the only resources you own, the only resources you rely on, be it a small company as a caffe, or a house, or whatever you have invested on to make enough money to make a decent living (the bare minimum). If you lose it, you lose everything. You fall under the poverty line. Companies become bankrupt daily and they close. Small companies (especially after the recession) in a big city, can't antagonize bigger enterprizes, like chain-stores that made it big. It's very difficult to keep a small business in a big city alive.

    I think this vid is somehow informative.

     
  18. marshipan

    marshipan Senior Member

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    You know, I think a lot of poor people do eat junk food. I know I said I don't personally but if I remember right obesity levels are worse below the poverty line. One is because they want cheap and easy meals. Which means PROCESSED. Also, sometimes food is the only way you can splurge or destress. Chips, cheap baked goods, juice boxes, frozen breaded meat (chicken nuggets), frozen french fries...there are lot of calorie dense, nutrient poor foods that are cheap and require very little prep and a lot of people who are struggling for money buy them. Fresh veggies and fruit don't compare. You *can* afford a healthy diet while on Food Stamps, but you have to budget more and cook everything. A lot of people rather just buy the "junk".
     
  19. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    I somehow doubt that anyone living at or below the poverty line has their own business, let alone a high risk, high-overhead business like a restaurant.

    did you read "Being Poor" by John Scalzi? it might help.
     
  20. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Spitting .45 caliber grammar.... Contributor

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    Poor people eat cheaper food. Junk food tends to be cheaper because it's processed in bulk and requires less labor to produce. Fresh food is expensive. Organic food is ungodly expensive. And local farm to table food is stratospherically expensive.
     
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  21. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    the most expensive things I buy are produce and meat. hands down. you don't have produce and meat money at the poverty line. you have bag of rice and non-perishable goods money at the poverty line.
     
  22. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Possibly farmers.

    Lots of carbohydrates. The amount of pancakes you can make for a dollar is pretty remarkable.
     
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  23. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Senior Member

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    As someone who grew up in DC, and who read one of Pellacanos's books in college, I was surprised by the amount of accurate details...
     
  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    that'll be because pellcanos grew up in Washington DC in the time hes writing about and still lives there - the Greek cafe owner who employs Darius Strange is based on Pellecanos's father - it has a degree of realism that it is very hard to get right purely from research
     
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  25. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    I don't want to read some whinging aspirationalist moaning on about their otherness, or their 'escape.' I want a book of the working class that talks about us, and has humour, celebrating the human condition that is shared.
     
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