Living below the poverty line in the United States means having just about the same access to creature comforts and basic household necessities as everybody else.
That’s the report from the Census Bureau, which has published new information on living conditions in the United States taken from data collected through 2011.
According to the data, being poor means you’re less likely to have a computer, dishwasher or deep freeze. But it also means you’re about as likely as the snob hill crowd to have a cellphone, air conditioning, television and some kind of DVR device.
According to the report, titled “Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011,” 80.9 percent of people living below the poverty line have cellphones, while 83.4 percent have air conditioning. Television, a necessity of life, is in 96.1 percent of poverty-level households, and 83.2 percent have a “video cassette recorder” or digital television recording device.
In each case, the percentage of people above the poverty line who own these same things isn’t much higher — because it can’t be.
Here are some other percentages that run down the things that poverty-stricken Americans own. The number in parentheses is provided for comparison. That’s the percentage of Americans living above the poverty line who own the same stuff.
- Refrigerators: 97.8 (99.5)
- Clothes washers: 68.7 (88.1)
- Clothes dryers: 65.3 (86.6)
- Dishwashers: 44.9 (73.5)
- Food freezers: 26.2 (37.5)
- Stoves: 96.6 (98.9)
- Microwaves: 93.2 (97.4)
Maybe “poverty” is a word that talking heads and the American elected class should retire from domestic discourse to be reserved, instead, as a descriptor of how poor people live in the developing world. Poverty across the world is a condition; poverty in America is nearly always a choice.