Are You Poor If You Have a Flat-Screen TV?

Photo (cc) by Pain Chaud

At first glance, it may seem like a family with a computer, smartphones and a flat-screen TV is doing fairly well for itself.

But don’t be so quick to judge. According to Annie Lowrey with The New York Times, it’s not that easy to recognize the face of the poor in America.

Yes, the material well-being that some of the poor enjoy today was unimaginable to even the wealthy in years past. But the prices of consumer goods like TVs, phones, clothing, and small appliances have plummeted in the last 10 years, so it’s hardly a basis for defining the modern poor, Lowrey writes.

“If you handpick services and goods where there has been dramatic technological progress, then the fact that poor people can consume these items in 2014 and even rich people couldn’t consume them in 1954 is hardly a meaningful distinction,” said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution.

“That’s not telling you who is rich and who is poor.”

Although consumer goods are relatively cheap these days, some essential services that could make strides in lifting families out of poverty – like health care, child care and college tuition and fees – are out of reach for America’s poor.

So, the plight of the poor still looks pretty bleak, regardless of any perceived material wealth. The Times said:

“Without a doubt, the poor are far better off than they were at the dawn of the War on Poverty,” said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research. “But they have also drifted further away.”

Slate columnist Jordan Weissman wrote that if you want to get a broad picture of the troubles facing the poor, forget about the “stuff.”

Nobody is suggesting that the main problem the poor face today is a lack of stuff. It’s a lack of security, an inability to cover basic recurring expenses, like utilities and rent, as well as major unexpected costs like medical care.

An effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour has stalled in the Senate. Democrats failed Wednesday to rally the super-majority of 60 votes needed to defeat a Republican filibuster of the wage raise proposal.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Renovations That Can Impact Your Home Insurance

Home improvements can affect your home insurance policy for the better, the worse or both.

Beware These 5 Common Work-From-Home Scams

You can spot scammers and con artists with a little know-how.

5 Countries Where You Can Retire on $2,000 a Month or Less

These tips on retiring overseas come from someone who’s been helping American expats for decades.

Big-Ticket Things You Should Never Buy

In this week’s podcast: Are you wasting big money on these common purchases?

7 Surprising Advantages of Downsizing as a Retiree

Downsizing your home offers many benefits, including some you may not have anticipated.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Major Appliances Got the Worst Reviews in 2020

Consumer Reports says these home products got the worst ratings from experts.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

Is This Treatable Condition Causing Your High Blood Pressure?

Researchers say too many doctors are overlooking this potential source of hypertension.

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

3 Cable TV Companies Hiking Prices for 2021

Still married to your cable company? Hold on to your wallet!

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

15 Painless Ways You Can Cut Costs in 2021

Follow these tips to save, so you’ll have money for things that really matter.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.