Why poverty is so expensive and why we don’t see it

“Poverty” is one of those words we would rather not use. It makes us uncomfortable to call any person, group or neighborhood “poor.” Yet as we refrain from using it—out of pangs of conscience, guilt, or respect—we may fail to see it around us. To invert the saying, “out of mind, out of sight.” If the concept dies, so does our ability to think of it. But most people in the world do not live very far from pockets of poverty. In some countries, there are little islands of prosperity amid an ocean of deprivation. Much can be discussed about the roots of poverty. Still, we can identify a few reasons why being poor is so expensive, and why it becomes a trap from which it is hard to escape: a very large proportion of money for low-income households goes to rent. By one account, a tenant at a mobile home park in the U.S. with so many code violations that it had been called an “environmental biohazard,” after rent and utilities were paid, was only left with $5.00 a day. With that kind of money you can hardly benefit from bulk purchases or offers made by large supermarket chains. You will have to pay for single items because that’s all you can afford. And as it’s likely you will not have a car, those megastores in the suburbs will be out of reach. Or you may not have the space to store the non-perishable items. And as a community has attempted, trying to push the poor out of sight will not make poverty go away.

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