Poverty In America: Cellphones, TVs, Refrigerators And Microwave Ovens


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.

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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  • peter

    Just a quick question. Where do the homeless keep their fridges, washers, deep freezers, stoves and microwaves ? Just curious. In order to have an appliance one needs accommodation and seeing that there are so many unemployed and without shelter, these figures don’t make sense.

    • Stuart Shepherd

      I agree, Peter, and I’ve actually BEEN homeless. This article is trying to make a point, and I’m sure the statistics are accurate in the manner that they were collected, but the article also seems very MEAN-SPIRITED. I’m conservative. I don’t believe in huge government hand-outs encouraging laziness, but this article seems to be some type of judgmental or condemnational opinion piece.

      • Nadzieja Batki

        Do you have problems with reading comprehension? The Census Bureau has tabulated these numbers from the data they collected from either going door to door or data mining, etc..
        In the United States most of the gadgets mentioned are no longer luxuries but have become necessities and basic staples of living here.

        • Briylaln


        • Robert Messmer

          Yes and they only included those with addresses. Their 2nd lowest level of income starts at 18K+ and goes to 35K+. So if you have an address, you are probably much better off than the homeless who are on a par with some of the poor in the rest of the world.

      • Nadzieja Batki

        You also believe in government handouts because it is somewhat owed you because you were “poor little you”.

    • Nadzieja Batki

      What turn of mind created these homeless that you worship and need to keep as homeless so you can taut how caring you are about the homeless?

      • Don R Mallonee

        the answer to your question is, The Democrats and theyre way of taxing the factories and jobs out of the country.

    • Don R Mallonee

      A very good question peter,it shows you have what is called ,common sense,and most people who are lucky enough to have common sense believe a person would rather work and have a steady pay check rather than be homeless,

    • Robert Messmer

      It all depends on the parameters that you operate in. Unemployment is reported as 13.7%. Seems straight forward but if you have after a period of earnestly trying to find employment decide to quit looking then presto chango as far as the government is concerned you are no longer a part of the unemployment problem. So by the same token if in your “poor” you only include those with addresses the homeless don’t upset your figures. Same way poll figures show that a majority of Americans are in favor of gun control or any other stupid thing you want to prove. You just have to pick your target group and word your questions in such a way that you get the results you want. It really isn’t all that difficult. For instance, you are taking a survey and must answer either True or False. The question is: Is it true that you have quit beating your wife?No matter which way you answer you have just stated that you either do or at least did beat your wife. Which is why surveys always provide the answers for you…..mustn’t let the truth interfere with the answers.

  • Karolyn

    Microwaves are easily found at the flea market or yard sales for $10, air conditioners $25-50. Fridges can be found at 2nd hand shops for $150 or less. Also, rentals very often come with these things. Old-fashioned tvs can be had for $25. However, I do know of people who do not have microwaves, tvs or air conditioners, who are really poor. Here in rural SC, I see many small old trailers with their doors open all summer. Oh, and cellphones can be had secondhand too. We have a local FB page with people selling them all the time cheap as they get the new model.

  • Chester

    Cell phones can be bought NEW for ten dollars in nearly any convenience store, with a twenty dollar card for sixty minutes air time over ninety days, and free activation. That means you can have a NON giveaway phone at a very reasonable price. New microwave, about fifty dollars, if you don’t have to have all the latest and greatest features, new AC for around a hundred, but will only cool one smallish room. A new fridge, small type, fifty bucks, larger type, hundred and a half. Of course, shop the thrift stores and yard sales and you can beat the price on most anything other than the cell phones, as the new ones do come with at least one charger. Incidentally, many times a cell phone is cheaper than a land line, and does give you a phone number to give to potential employers that is YOURS, not a contact number.

    • A concerned citizen

      I imagine the “Obamaphones” are costing us the taxpayers much more than what you stated since the Gov’t is involved. I believe the “Obamaphones” actually provide 250 minutes and texting per month, maybe other features too. I wonder if the folks with “Obamaphones” still qualify for a landline? I have read that at least 25% of those receiving the Gov’t phone program are not qualified due to lack of verification and follow up inspections.

      • Chester

        IF you have a lifeline cell phone, you can still have a landline, but you get to pay full load on it. If you pay your own cell bill, you can get lifeline privileges on your landline, lots of taxes done away with. IF you play by the rules, you get one or the other, not both, and most of the landline companies do check to see if you have a lifeline phone listed to your address when you request the lifeline assistance from them.

        • A concerned citizen

          I should have been more clear, the program I believe with the greatest abuse is the cell phone program not the landline which has probably become less popular over time anyway.

  • JimH

    It seems in the U.S. even people at “poverty” level have it better than many around the world.
    In our country being without food means your food stamps ran out. Elsewhere it means there is “no” food to be found.
    Some people need to stop worrying about what others have that they don’t and start being thankful for what they do have.

  • mark

    This article refutes everything all the past PLD articles have complained about how horrible everyone is living under the Obama economy. Ends up people are doing just fine! There is no real poverty in this country. People chose to be more, being laid off from their former job and unable to find work has nothing to do with it. I certaily don’t believe it, but according to this article PDL and Ben Bullard sure do. That is until tomorrow when they will post an article that says the complete opposite of this one – often by the very same author – that Obama has destroyed our nation’s economy. The free phone program for the poor and unemployed actually began under President Reagan and really picked up steam under George W. Bush by the way though no one at FOX or on Limbaugh’s show call it the Reaganphone or the Bushphone. Gee, wonder why? Could they be a little biased politically? No, never….


  • Briylaln

    No computor and one car. No air conditioner, but I do have a fan. Have a heater, but don’t use it, just grab a blanket. I do have a dishwasher – my wife. Okay, I’m lying about that – I do the dishes. 99% of the people that claim to be poor in this country don’t now the meaning of poor. They just know that they don’t have what other people have. Maybe if they made responsible decisions and bettered themselves through education and hard work……