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Why Americans are harsh in judging purchases made by low-income people

TV purchase
REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger
Researchers found that we tend to harbor a belief that lower-income individuals have a narrower range of needs than those with higher incomes and that this belief narrows what we consider is permissible for them to buy.

Americans tend to judge low-income people more harshly about their purchases than high-income people — even when they buy identical items, according to a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In fact, Americans tend to believe low-income people need — indeed, deserve — fewer things than those who earn more, including basic necessities such as living in a safe neighborhood or having access to public transportation.

These findings expose “a grim double standard,” say the study’s authors, for the results suggest that “in addition to economic disparities that restrict what lower-income individuals financially can consume … there is an inequality in what they are socially permitted to consume.”

Buying the ‘wrong things’

This isn’t the first time that researchers have reported that people express more negative opinions about the purchasing decisions of lower-income individuals. A 2016 study found, for example, that people regard recipients of government assistance as being less moral for buying so-called ethical goods, such as organic produce and eco-friendly cars, than people not receiving assistance.

There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence, too.

“Lower-income individuals are frequently scrutinized and scorned for their consumption decisions,” write the current study’s authors, Kate Barasz, an assistant professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, and doctoral student Serena Hagerty. “For example a round of social media shaming commenced after Syrian refugees were photographed coming ashore with smartphones in hand, and a United States politician chastised lower-income Americans for buying iPhones instead of health insurance.”

“Even at more official levels, federal agencies have reprimanded lower-income, natural-disaster victims for the ways in which relief funds were spent, and the leader of an international nonprofit warned against giving lower-income individuals unconditional cash transfers because they may buy the ‘wrong’ things,” they add.

For the current study, Barasz and Hagerty explored the link in American society between perceived necessity and something called “permissible consumption” — what we consider socially acceptable (or not) for other people to buy. They found that we tend to harbor a belief that lower-income individuals have a narrower range of needs than those with higher incomes and that this belief narrows what we consider is permissible for them to buy.

Judging permissibility

The new study is actually a series of 11 separate experiments involving about 4,000 American adults.

In one experiment, participants were asked to read about an individual named Joe, who was described to some as having a low-paying job (putting him in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. household income) and to others as having a high-paying one (putting him in the top 25 percent of U.S. household incomes). Joe wins a $200 gift card to Target in a community raffle and then spends it on a $200 flat-screen TV.

Participants were then asked to answer five questions designed to measure how “permissible” they thought this purchase was.

The study found that when participants were told Joe had a low-paying job, they were much less likely to say he had made a responsible and thoughtful decision about the TV than if they were told he had a high-paying job. They were also less likely to say he “deserved” the TV.

In another experiment, participants read about a woman named Alex, who goes shopping for a car seat for her first child. She has set aside money for the purchase and narrows down her options to two choices. Both products have similarly high safety scores, but one has a few extra features that made it more convenient to use — as well as a 20 percent higher price tag ($250 rather than $180). She ends up buying that car seat.

Again, the purchase was considered less “permissible” by the study’s participants when they were told Alex had a low income than when they were told she had a high one.

A third experiment asked participants to rate the “permissibility” of a wide range of 20 commonly purchased goods and services, including rugs, household appliances, pet products, newspapers and magazines, household plants, window coverings, living room furniture and mobile phones. All but one category — personal care products, such as shampoo and toothpaste — were seen as significantly less permissible when the purchaser was described as having a low income than when he was depicted as having a high one.

Judging need

In their initial set of experiments, Barasz and Hagerty demonstrated that we give higher-income people social permission to consume more. But the researchers wanted to also know why. Is it because higher-income people can afford more?

No. It’s because we assume lower-income people need less, according to another series of experiments. And that’s where the double standard takes glaring center stage.

In one experiment, participants read about a family of four, the Jacksons, who were looking for a home in a new city. The participants were asked to rate how necessary they felt each of 20 housing attributes were for the family. Seventeen of the attributes were deemed significantly less necessary when the Jacksons were described as having a low income than when they depicted as having a high one.

“That the gap emerged for attributes like ‘a neighborhood that is safe/secure’ and ‘close to hospitals or doctors/dentists’ suggest that even basic health and safety requirements are seen as ambiguously necessary for lower-income people,” the researchers write. And the fact that the respondents perceived it less necessary for the lower-income family to have a home close to public transportation than for the higher-income family to have a home with a good exterior appearance is “a striking example of the impoverished view of needs that emerges for the poor,” they add.

Real-world consequences

The implications of the study are troubling.

“If people judge lower-income individuals more harshly for buying things they do not ‘need,’ but the definition of ‘need’ changes — narrowing and becoming more restrictive for precisely those individuals — a bleak predicament arises,” the researchers write. “Not only do lower-income individuals face harsher interpersonal judgment for deviating from ‘necessary’ purchases, but there are fewer items that fit within the permissible categorization of ‘necessary’ in the first place,” they write.

Here’s an example from one of the experiments of how that attitude can affect the resources made available to poorer people: Participants were given the choice to give someone either a $100 gift card to Trader Joe’s or a $200 gift card to Best Buy. When the person who would receive the gift was describe as low income, only 25 percent of the participants chose the Best Buy card, even though it was worth twice as much. More than half the participants chose that card, however, when told the gift would be going to a high-income individual.

“Paradoxically, the result was that participants effectively allocated more money to higher-income people than lower-income people,” Barasz and Hagerty note.

“It seems not to be the case that higher-income people are socially permitted to consume more because they can afford more; instead, lower-income people are socially permitted to consume less because they are presumed to need less,” the researchers conclude.

FMI: You’ll find an abstract of the study on the PNAS website, but the full study is behind a paywall.

Comments (49)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/30/2020 - 10:25 am.

    While there’s considerable overlap between racial bigotry and economic bigotry, they’re not synonymous. The former is simply more obvious. It’s pretty common in this country, especially among more affluent Whites, to view poverty as something the poor “chose” by making poor life choices, or that the poor “deserve” by making those poor life choices.

    It’s surely true that there are poor people whose life choices and judgment have left them impoverished, but it seems to me equally true that a great many people make similarly misguided life choices and exercise similarly bad judgment, but have social, family, and/or economic resources available to them that allow them to recover from many of their mistakes – resources that, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is a legacy of obvious racial prejudice, are simply not available to those at the bottom of the economic ladder. It’s one of those areas where “White privilege” sometimes enters the picture, and its impact is significant.

    The negative view of some purchases by the poor seems to me to add to the “It’s your own fault” judgment an additional “…and your bad choices deserve punishment.” Having been at the razor’s edge of poverty more than once myself, I confess that I find economic bigotry at least as off-putting as other forms of prejudice that are more commonly criticized.

    In a society where a majority of our economic activity consists of “consumption,” it should go without saying that much of that “consumption” is for items that could easily be classified as “non-essential,” yet as a culture, we’re much more likely to criticize the poor family for purchasing a new big-screen TV for their own entertainment than the affluent family doing the same thing for the same reasons.

    Hypocrisy abounds.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/30/2020 - 11:09 am.

      First off there’s no such thing as white privilege. Everyone makes their own choices in life and there many poor white people in this nation.

      Secondly, spending money on things you don’t need when you’re poor is your own problem. When you have little money you should not be buying 60 inch LED tvs when a 32 inch lcd for 1/3 the price will do just fine. You have to learn to handle your money wisely or you will simply stay poor for life. Anyone can get out of poverty if they choose to and make better choices/decisions in life. Affluent people can easily afford to spend money on stuff they don’t need because they have enough income to do so.

      If I was poor (and I’ve been pretty close) I would not be paying Verizon 75 a month for a smartphone when you can get much cheaper options. I wouldn’t buy a Prius when I can get a decent used ICE car for a tiny fraction of the cost and no debt. I won’t be buying Starbucks when I can drink a water or make my own Coffee for pennies on the dollar. It’s all about learning to make wise choices so you can get out of poverty.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/01/2020 - 08:24 am.

        You certainly are very good (well, verbose, I guess) at giving advice to others. Unfortunately, your advice to a person in poverty has all the impact of my advice to you on not voting for and supporting unqualified, ill informed, ego maniacs who kiss up to murderous dictators.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/01/2020 - 02:42 pm.

        “First off there’s no such thing as white privilege.”

        You just shot any credibility your arguments may have had with that statement.

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 06/30/2020 - 01:33 pm.

      Good points. And having a big screen TV when you live in a high crime neighborhood makes sense if it is dangerous to go outside and play and the kids need a diversion and people do deserve to have some fun no matter the income. And the system tends to be more forgiving of people who drink and drive or on the phone vs someone on a street corner selling drugs. You can pay for a speeding ticket to not go on your record if you have a clean record as well. At the same time we need programs that are evidence based and as you point help people ‘recover from their mistakes’ and are not just a hand out but do help them move ahead. Otherwise it is more about policy makers and some feeling good about themselves vs real change.

  2. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/30/2020 - 10:28 am.

    A lot of words – short answer – bigotry toward the poor, intensified by racism, and a belief that Americans like them deserve freedom, but are also deny freedom of choice to others. Perhaps, this is something we all do, but conservative white men are most vocal about it. Read the comments on any article related to poverty and race, and you will see what I mean. Mean is the correct word, because this negative attitude is applying to poor children. Who bear no fault for their situation. The question is if this issue troubles you, how can that negativity be overcome. That would be useful to know.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/30/2020 - 11:15 am.

      Your “white men” are likely tired of paying all those taxes so the poor can just keep staying poor. People need to make better decisions in life and get themselves out of poverty instead of relying on the govt. We’ve tried the LBJ/Democrat way for over 60 years now (and trillions of dollars spent) and we have more poverty now than we did back then. Some of us are tired of the govt way and would like to see free market capitalism return so that everyone can have success. The deficit spending is what makes people poor by destroying their purchasing power. Most can’t keep up.

      It has nothing to do with racism because many people of all colors are poor.

      • Submitted by William Duncan on 07/01/2020 - 07:58 am.

        Actually, what has kept most people poor is a “free market” society where it is deemed appropriate to pay “essential” workers just enough to barely get by. Govt policy is what it is because corporations, banks and billionaires decide what policy will be – as evidenced by the explosive growth of income inequality for 40 years now.

        • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 03:03 pm.

          That is absolutely false. Free market capitalism has pulled more people out of poverty than all other economic systems combined.

        • Submitted by Richard Steuland on 07/05/2020 - 07:55 pm.

          The influence of the Corporate and elite class would dissolve if we had campaign finance reform. It’s a pay to play reality. Look at Mitch McConnell, in his tenure in government he has become worth tens of millions on a government salary. (Snark) we won’t get any reform unless we demand change. Look to the Northern Europeans who fund candidates and have a very short election cycle. Egalitarian values promote a healthy inclusive society. America is sick and it’s obvious change is necessary . America has lost its way and it’s up to every citizen to create a society that affords opportunity to everyone.We can begin by changing the way we educate our young. Rather than cram their minds with useless facts let them explore and learn by doing.

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/01/2020 - 08:16 am.

        Well, ain’t that convenient.

        All the troubles of the last 60 years can be laid at the feet of LBJ.

        8 Years of Reagan, 8 years of GWB, 4 Years of Trump. Many of those years with control of the House and Senate and you could not fix things to your standards?

        I’ll take that as your admission that Republicans are much better at getting elected than running a government. Never more apparent than in the past 4 years.

        • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 03:27 pm.

          Once programs are established they are never repealed. I never once said Republicans were any better on this than Democrats …at least not since Ike.

          This isn’t about politics’s math (economics). Politicians only care about getting elected and enriching themselves. In a fiat currency system, if you run up a bunch of debt and “print” money, you devalue said currency and thus “steal” purchasing power from the citizens.

          Welfare has never worked over the long run. All it does is make more people poor and keeps people poor by removing incentive to work and breaking up family units.

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 07/01/2020 - 07:15 pm.

            “Welfare has never worked over the long run.”

            What is a “long run”?

            Do I take from that you are not opposed to the current Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program?

            So that gets us to able bodied folks who prefer this over a job:

            $1258.00 Per month SS disability Benefit
            $131.00 Per month SNAP benefit.

            Add it up and you get to about $8.50 per hour.

            What a free lunch bounty!!!

            As my good friend WHD will cheerfully tell you this is chump change in the government spending side of things.

            Face it, some folks simply have physical and mental disabilities that preclude them from participating in the world of work, sometimes even society in general. And no amount of:

            “Buck up buddy, let’s go get ’em”

            Cheer leading from you will make any difference.

            The nasty little truth is that this spending on human warehousing is way cheaper than solving the problem.

            Opening up a new life for these folks means a process that includes:

            1. Solving their healthcare needs.
            2. Providing job skills training enabling a fulfilling career start.
            3. Solving childcare needs when pursuing that training.
            4. Finding and enabling a career start.
            5. Supporting items 1 and 3 as they begin that career start.

            Do all of that and your:

            “Buck up buddy, let’s go get ’em”

            Cheer leading has real meaning. Try to get Mitch McConnell and Republican group think to support and pay for any of this.

            Not going to happen: They will just follow the GOP playbook and assign some blame and move on…

          • Submitted by cory johnson on 07/01/2020 - 09:38 pm.

            Democrats have an incentive to make minorities believe a “system” is keeping them down. Conveniently enough all minorities need to do is keep voting for their white saviors. Hasn’t worked for several decades but I’m sure it will any day now.

            • Submitted by ian wade on 07/02/2020 - 01:19 pm.

              Talk about irony. Donald Trump based his entire campaign on grievance while demonizing groups of people that supposedly kept others down.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/06/2020 - 02:50 pm.

              It strikes me as racist to espouse the notion that “minorities” are so easily led into voting in a way that does not advance their real interests.

          • Submitted by Richard Steuland on 07/05/2020 - 07:59 pm.

            The founders did not value career politicians. It was an honor to be of service to the greater good. Today we have many Senators who have been in office decades. They are numb to the reality of 90% of us. Term limits are needed n order to restore integrity and trust.

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/02/2020 - 07:30 pm.

        Actually, as a St. Paul resident, I am tired of my taxes subsidizing Republican-voting outstate Minnesota. As a blue-state resident, I am tired of my taxes subsidizing red states. The people getting the welfare aren’t the urban poor – its red state/district Republicans. Liberals in the city have to work hard to support those freeloaders.

        Not that Republicans would understand. Most of them are so economically illiterate that they elected an actor who failed at every business he every tried to run with his dad’s inheritance.

  3. Submitted by William Duncan on 06/30/2020 - 10:58 am.

    I am a builder/remodeler. In 2013, the only work I could find was as an associate at The Home Depot, where they paid me $10/hr, 25hr’s/wk.

    In the break room on the overnight stocking shift, the overnight stockers, who made $8.50/hr, were complaining about welfare mothers having kids. After a couple of minutes of that mean spiritedness, I turned to them and said, “you know, food stamps are like 40 billion a year. The Federal Reserve is printing $85 billion a month out of nothing, handing it to the biggest banks, to hand to the richest Americans to buy up the wreckage of the housing bubble.”

    Not one of them said another word about welfare mothers. Nor amazingly did they seem at all disturbed by Fed QE.

    Nowadays, in this pandemic, the Fed has printed closer to $85 billion a day, to hand to banks, corporations, private equity, hedge funds and billionaire pet projects. And I hear hardly a peep about it.

    If America doesn’t excel at much anymore, it surely excels at manufacturing consent for greedy wickedness.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 03:30 pm.

      A lot of that money went to small businesses via PPP. Were you also complaining when Obama bailed out GM and the banks? Or his 800+ billion stimulus ?

      Most here still vote for the same politicians that have been bankrupting this nation for decades.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/02/2020 - 07:31 pm.

      You probably don’t hear a peep about that because it isn’t true.

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/30/2020 - 11:26 am.

    This attitude comes from two factors: 1) A common belief that people are poor because they are lazy and will not be motivated to work harder if their lives are too easy, and 2) Being so out-of-touch with present-day realities that a person doesn’t know what is cheap and what is expensive or what is required by law.

    For example, I sometimes see right-wingers claiming that America’s poor aren’t really poor because they have refrigerators, stoves, and air conditioning (and running water and indoor toilets, too!). Never mind that most poor people live in rental housing and that landlords are required by law to provide working stoves and refrigerators. Anyone who drives around Minneapolis and St. Paul will also see that all but the most rundown rental housing has cheapo window air conditioners or ones built into an outside wall.

    These same critics also complain about poor people owning DVD players. Perhaps they bought theirs when DVDs were new technology, so they don’t know how much the price has come down: about $30 at Target, the last time I looked, and movies can be rented from Redbox for a token price. I guess poor people are supposed to be shamed for sitting back and watching a DVD after coming home from their often physically exhausting jobs. (By the way, it is also possible to buy a TV for less than $200 at Target, and if you put it on a Target credit card, you can pay it off gradually.)

    “Instead of watching TV,” the critics grumbled, “that person should be taking classes to qualify for a better job.”

    Ever heard of flexible scheduling? When I was a young unemployed Ph. D. working retail, I always knew my schedule a week in advance, and it didn’t change very much. I could and did take night courses as I explored alternative career possibilities. That was then; this is now, when businesses, especially retail and food and entertainment, are notorious for changing employees’ schedules with little notice.

    That smartphone that galls the critics so much? I wonder if the critics are so up on current technology that they can distinguish the newest models of smartphone from the older ones, which are often available for free with a basic contract. At any rate, that smartphone is cheaper than a landline and is probably that person’s only means of accessing the internet.

    The critics talk as if they were actually jealous of the poor, and that goes double if the person they are criticizing is on welfare. “I wish I could just sit around all day,” they whine, “living off hardworking taxpayers.” I have dared them to trade places with a welfare recipient or to quit their jobs for no reason and try to qualify for public assistance. So far, no one has taken me up on that challenge.

    And God forbid that a person with nice clothes should use SNAP benefits. Never mind that the person’s financial disaster occurred recently enough that they still have a closet full of professional work clothes.

    And some critic has always seen a SNAP recipient with a shopping cart full of steak and lobster (it’s ALWAYS steak and lobster, never pork chops and salmon or hot dogs and fish sticks) and complains that he can’t afford steak and lobster.

    Criticism of street and other people who smoke or drink alcohol or use illegal drugs is valid up to a point, but when I volunteered with an agency that serves street youth many years ago, I learned that these habits are self-medication for depression and anxiety and often develop AFTER the person ends up on the streets.

    I have wondered about the psychology of someone who seems so determined to pay attention to what other people buy or are assumed to have. Why would someone care that a poor person has a smartphone or watch to see if the person in line ahead of them is using a SNAP card? Why would anyone claim the ability to recognize a welfare recipient on sight?

    I have concluded that it’s a form of magical thinking. “I have made good decisions,” they think, “which is why I’m not poor. As long as I can prove that I despise poor people and am more virtuous than they are, God will see that I’m doing the right thing and protect my financial status.”

    The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican comes to mind.

  5. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/30/2020 - 12:25 pm.

    The ironic thing is that those likely to most critical of frivolous spending by low income folks are also most likely to subscribe to (pre-Trump) conservative values on fiscal responsibility and Ronald Reagan thinking on economic benefits to the 1% leading to:

    “A rising tide lifts all boats”

    When in reality the rising tide is consumerism and spending on goods and services by the most folks possible. And that spending moves backwards up the chain benefiting the retailer, wholesaler, shippers and manufacturer.

    As opposed to proving incentives to the folks at the top and hoping it some how finds it’s way down the chain to lift all those boats.

    And instead, the guy at the top says:

    “Investing in Mexican cement futures is really lucrative right now: let’s stick our money there”

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 04:02 pm.

      I’d say your economic claim is off the mark. Consumerism doesn’t drive the economy, investment in the means of production does (typically savings). Buying cheap junk from China only makes the Chinese (and a few mega corps) richer.

      Moving from a mainly manufacturing economy to a service economy has really harmed the US citizens. Good paying jobs were replaced by nearly minimum wage jobs. Couple that with 5 decades of significant growth in the money supply and you have a disaster for most.

  6. Submitted by Barry Peterson on 06/30/2020 - 02:29 pm.

    I grew up in a high income home but succumb to disabilities which make it difficult for me to find a job outside of my home. My family does not significantly assist me with purchase or other amenities which others in my social reference group enjoy.

    One thing which we might examine is how lower income people are spending. Are they spending using high interest credit? If this is the case, then I can see the criticism as being valid — were, also, there words of encouragement to get one’s financial house in order. This is a difficult thing for many people to comprehend, and people are generally not that financially literate.

    For my part, I have never owned a car or a house, and my suits no longer fit me. I don’t know what I’d do if I had to go for a job interview, a wedding, or a funeral.

    I offer some of my income to poor people in Ghana, West Afirca, with whom I have established a decades-long relationship. To me, this is my family of choice as I have never married and have never been a biological dad. I deflect criticism of my spending on them, in assistance with their annual health insurance, which costs about $100 for a family of five, and with helping them get money together to buy equipment for establishing a business — which cost about $200. This adds to my morale and washes away the mild to moderate depression which my body and psyche face when I have little contact with people.

    I make healthy choice. However, I do not see the point in having a 72 inch flat screen television. That excess is obscene in my mind. I make due with my 17 inch computer monitor and seldom watch television as the programs typically seen on commercial television are, in my opinion, stupid, violent, and over-sexed.

    I believe that if people criticize others for their purchases, they should also be willing and active in providing solutions to low income and poverty. People who are low income and impoverished have dreams and aspirations, interests and passions just as higher income people enjoy.

    Criticism without instruction is no more than a cancer in our society. The angry sots who believe they should have the right to criticize without offering friendly and loving instruction should be ignored and castigated for their arrogance.

    • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 06/30/2020 - 04:58 pm.

      I advocate high schools and colleges in Minnesota teaching financial literacy and how to not be afraid of balance sheets and numbers.

      Many people fall short no these issues. Most Americans are not highly financially literate. Our society would see great gains were more people trained at a young age to understand the basics of balance sheets and accounting for personal and business purposes.

      It will be incumbent upon competent educators to make these subjects interesting and inviting to people who find working with numbers difficult.

      With this training, I’m certain that more people would spend less time at a low income and enjoy greater freedoms through economic strength.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 04:08 pm.

        Agreed. Schools should be teaching kids how to survive in the real world instead of spending all that time on politically correct nonsense. Many kids today graduate without knowing how to balance a checkbook, knowing about interest rates, balance sheets, and if you showed them an amortization schedule they’d have no clue what it was. They should know how to compare prices, negotiate a better deal, learn how to save money instead of going into debt etc.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 07/02/2020 - 07:35 pm.

          I sure hope they aren’t teaching kids how to balance a checkbook. I’m not sure anyone under age 40 still uses one.

          Kids really don’t need advice from a generation that elected a president who couldn’t understand a checkbook or balance sheet to save his life.

  7. Submitted by lindalee soderstrom on 06/30/2020 - 06:18 pm.

    I suggest folx try reading *Evicted* by Dr Mathew Desmond PhD. He is a Yale scholar who studied poverty when he lived in Milwaukee and attended housing court for 1.5 years and came to see that Eviction is not a result of poverty but a cause of it. Once evicted and that is on one’s permanent record, lower and lower class landlords can take further advantage of families at-risk. He finds: No ! poor people do not make poor choices. No one chooses which zip code to be born into. His examples are two: one woman serves her ex a seafood dinner as her birthday gift and uses her whole month of foodstamps up. Dr Desmond was very judgey wudgey and thought that was poor judgement at the start but the more he reflected he realized it was a LIFE THING that even a poor person wants to do and gets to do and can make such a choice and go to food shelf weekly all month til next month if needs be to make up the slack, I.ll reckon. Another example was when he babysit two AA Mom’s (that’s african american) several children in the car around the corner form a landlord appointment where the mom’s were trying to secure an apartment without owning up to having kids, ie their only way to get it. They didnt get it. But one of them soulfully sang some blues when they got back to the car and Mathew all caucasian was all like why is she going on like that? (to himself) until he gave it a Think. Oh yeah thought he. Real life makes us sad and mad and its hard and its arduous and we all grieve. People…. it was a people thing. So yeah – the scholar learned a lot. He also says *We are Better than This* in America in expressing that we are not spozed to be sitting on the white sidelines watching black, brown and indiginous people struggle without homes. Apartments are homes too and so on.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 07/01/2020 - 04:12 pm.

      Whose fault is it for getting evicted? The tenants. Stop blaming others for the fault of the person in question. If you can’t afford a certain place, don’t sign the lease. Always stay well within your means and the odds of you getting evicted are essentially zero.

  8. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 06/30/2020 - 06:30 pm.

    Urban Ministries of Durham created an interactive game, Spent, which gives you a month of wages and an assortment of choices you have to make throughout the month. I challenged an acquaintance, who felt that poverty was the result of poor choices, to take the quiz. She quit after two questions.

  9. Submitted by Larry Sanderson on 07/01/2020 - 07:08 am.

    We all love the moral high-ground, at least for others, particularly the poors. I have not read the study, but it seems to be teetering on the ‘do as I say, not as I do edge.’ We want others to spend wisely, not us, and we exempt the rich from that because they still have money left in the pot after covering their spending.

  10. Submitted by Henk Tobias on 07/01/2020 - 07:33 am.

    Charity is a funny thing. I think what most people don’t get it is that once you hand over the money, or whatever, it is no longer yours to control. It seems like a simple concept but people really have a hard time with it. What you control is whether or not to give, after that its out of your hands.

    We give clothes or whatever to Goodwill or the Salvation Army without a single thought about how they will be worn or how they will be used, why can’t we do that with cash too?

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 07/01/2020 - 08:18 am.

      ” once you hand over the money, or whatever, it is no longer yours to control…”

      Agree 100%

      But the money handed over from the government via our tax dollars is not charity, it is wealth redistribution. We do get a say in how it is used.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 07/01/2020 - 05:16 pm.

        Yes, it isn’t charity, because its in societies best interest to distribute it to SOCIETIES greatest advantage, not the recipients’. Perhaps if the wealthy were more generous in distributing their largesse themselves, such measures would be unneccessary, but alas, they choose objectivism as their guiding light. You choose to remain a member of society, as you continue to maintain citizenship, and as such the ONLY say you have in the matter is a single vote, per candidate on offer. Any other bloviation is irrelevant. The money was never yours, only by exclusive access (through citizenship), were you able to enjoy the many blessings and opportunities this society provides, and reap the rewards of such. Pay your due.

        • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 07/03/2020 - 09:45 am.

          ” its in societies best interest to distribute it to SOCIETIES greatest advantage, not the recipients”

          If that is true, then the welfare state has been a complete and total failure, and should be abolished immediately because welfare dependence is clearly not in societies best interest, nor is it in the recipient’s best interest although that is irrelevant according to you.

          And if, as you say, money [is]never [ours], the we all should have access to one and another’s bank accounts. I wonder if you’d care to test the validity of your observation by posting your bank account and PIN #?

  11. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 07/01/2020 - 08:15 am.

    By “low income” do you mean to say “welfare dependents”? Because I don’t know anyone that judges what people spend the money they earn on, but if someone is living on the “safety net” my tax dollars provide, well that’s different.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/02/2020 - 02:20 pm.

      Why? Their benefits are not topped up if they buy something they can’t afford. Nor do they get extra money on their SNAP card if they buy the proverbial steak and lobster.

      It’s totally on them. If they use up their benefits before the end of the month, they’re the ones who suffer, not the self-pitying taxpayers.

      • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 07/03/2020 - 09:52 am.

        I actually did see a woman buy several rib-eye steaks with her SNAP card, once. Although I found it offensive, I agree with you that if that’s her idea of good stewardship of our charity, so be it.

        However, using cash grants to purchase luxury items crosses the line; way over the line. We as a society may have an obligation to see that people do not starve, even as a result of their own fecklessness, but we are in no way responsible for their comfort and amusements.

        • Submitted by ian wade on 07/03/2020 - 01:22 pm.

          I’ve always found these claims to be utter nonsense. In my 62 years on the planet and God knows how many times I’ve stood in the checkout line of a grocery store, I’ve never once observed anyone even using an EBT card, much less supposedly buying steak and lobster with one. I’ll lump this anecdote in with “voter fraud” and toss in the appropriate circular file.

        • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/03/2020 - 07:25 pm.

          What kinds of “luxury items” could a person buy on a TANF or general assistance grant? And whatever they buy, how is it any of your business?

        • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 07/05/2020 - 08:45 pm.

          I am disabled and survive on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and SNAP. I found it possible to rent a Section-8 apartment about sixteen years ago and will remain eligible as long as I don’t have $44,000 in income. My income last year was less than $13,000. I mostly survived on cereal and milk, until going on a program for disabled individuals which pay for one meal a day in a tray. I supplement those meals with an occasional New York Cut steak, consuming less than a half pound of steak a day when I eat a half steak at all.

          It is none of your business how I eat, as I have been beaten, raped, and molested in my childhood and young adulthood, leaving me disabled. I would like to work outside of my apartment, but due to anxiety I cannot again do that. No one came to my assistance when I asked for help during that earlier time of abuse. I now teach Asian physicians and engineers how to pronounce English and engage in fluid conversations. My students have an average of an MS, PhD, and MD. I teach by telephone throughout the nation and in China.

          I attended boarding school in Europe, Macalester College, University of Minnesota, and a language and cultural institute in Costa Rica. I studied history and pediatric healthcare management in the U.S., Norway, and Costa Rica. I did not learn not to use credit cards until a few years ago, and now use only debit and EBT cards, and cash.

          Friends of mine are owners and heirs of multi-million and multi-billion dollar enterprises in the U.S. and South America. I met Bob Dylan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in my youth, both Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. Bob was a friend of my dad’s friends, and Tutu came to my town in Norway where I was involved in anti-apartheid activity in 1984.

          After paying down my debt to credit cards, I will start a business on Prime and get off of SNAP and SSDI. My parents do not assist me with finances, and haven’t since college.

          Please re-evaluate your elitism and judgmental personalities. You do not have a clear view into poverty, and every once in a while those of us with very low income wish to consume food which is tasty. This is none of your business.

          I have been working since age eleven years old and paying taxes since my teenage years — as have my family. My family were legal and medical professionals with apartment complexes and other rental property. They do not understand the complexity of my life and have told me on more than one occasion to “pull [myself] up by the bootstraps,” — easier said than done after decades of abuse.

          I have been active on boards of directors, coalitions and councils when not going out of my home very often was possible. I have never owned a car, which accounts for some of the reasons that I have remained in a disabled status. I have found going on public transit to be very difficult given smelly and abusive people on the routes near my home and while I was studying insurance — which I excelled at.

          Don’t be presumptuous. As a sitcom character in the 1970’s once said to his odd couple roommate, “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

          • Submitted by Barry Peterson on 07/05/2020 - 09:11 pm.

            Correction: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize was in literature. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Nobel was a Peace Prize.

            I met Maria Zimmerman, Dylan’s daughter, at Macalester College. She was not at all impressed that I met her dad.

            My meeting, with Bob, was low key at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. I was interested in meeting him, but did not fall all over him. He was a quiet man visiting his theater, owned by him, and brothers Fred and Frank Krohn. Fred became Director of the Hennepin Theater Group. He and Frank and my dad were housemates in south Minneapolis.

  12. Submitted by Alan Straka on 07/01/2020 - 12:21 pm.

    I would be critical of a person who buys luxuries they cannot afford but I haven’t figured out how to determine what a person makes by looking at them. I try not to be judgemental about those things. On the other hand when I see someone buying cigarettes or an obviously obese person filling their grocery cart with junk food, I just roll my eyes and keep my mouth shut.

  13. Submitted by Doug Duwenhoegger on 07/01/2020 - 01:45 pm.

    How this article fails to mention Reagan’s Welfare Queen archetype is beyond me. This was basis for most people’s judgement of the spending of the poor.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 07/01/2020 - 02:40 pm.

      Reagan’s “welfare queen” is the archetype of the racist dog whistle. He didn’t have to tell us what race the “queen” was, or what race the “strapping young buck” referred to was. His listeners knew, even if they profess wide-eyed innocence when confronted by the race aspect (“But he never said they were black!”).

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