10 Myths About Poverty Busted — With Graphs And Citations

Dr. Laura Tach of Cornell University analyzed U.S. Census data and used the data to expose the harsh truths about poverty in the U.S. Mother Jones used her research and other data to compile “10 Poverty Myths, Busted.” Conservatives at the National Review attempted to debunk the article, but Mother Jones writer Erika Eichelberger debunked the debunking. The fact remains: there are hard statistics to back up the Mother Jones article.

1. Single moms are the problem.

Completely false. Only nine percent of low-income moms have been single throughout their child’s first five years, while 35 percent were in a marriage or relationship with the child’s father for the entire time. (Source: Analysis by Dr. Laura Tach at Cornell University)

2. Absentee fathers are the problem.

The majority of dads are active in the lives of their children. Sixty percent of fathers with low income see at least one of their children daily, and another 16 percent see their children every week. (Source: Analysis by Dr. Laura Tach at Cornell University)

3. Most black fathers are deadbeats and they are the problem.

This is a stereotype that is based on racism and bigotry and fostered by the right-wing media. In actuality, non-custodial black fathers are more likely than white or Hispanic fathers to have a presence in the lives of their children every day.




4. Poor people are lazy.

Nope. In 2004, more than 60 percent of families on food stamps that had both kids and a non-disabled, working-age adult had jobs. In 2013 the number rose sharply to 96 percent.

Center on Budget and Policy Practices

5. If you’re not officially poor (according to federal poverty standards), you’re doing okay.

Unfortunately, federal poverty standards lag behind the reality and the cost of living. In 2012, the federal poverty standard for a family of two parents and two children was $23,550. Basic needs cost at least twice that amount in 615 of America’s cities and regions.

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

6. Go to college, get out of poverty.

In 2012, about 1.1 million heads of households with bachelor’s degrees worked full time and made less than $25,000 a year. (U.S. Census)

Source: U. S. Census Bureau, Monthly Labor Review, Project on Student Debt, Institute for College Access and Success, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Hadley Malcolm and Frank Pompa, USA TODA

7. We’re winning the war on poverty.

Wrong. We are miserably losing the war on poverty, but cutting programs isn’t the solution because we are definitely alleviating the pain of poverty. Having said that, since 1996 the number of households with children who live on less than $2 a day per person has grown 160 percent since 1996.

National Poverty Center

8. Social Security and Medicare has ended the struggles of most single elderly women.

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no truth to this sentiment. The number of elderly single women living in extreme poverty jumped 31 percent from 2011 to 2012.

National Women’s Law Center and U.S. Census

9. Homeless people are drunks living in the streets begging for money.

Dangerously false. A shocking one in 45 kids in the U.S. experiences homelessness every year. There are 22,000 homeless children in New York City alone.

Coalition for the Homeless

10. Handouts and freebies to deadbeats are bankrupting the country.

This is perhaps the most cruel lie that is easily debunked with one glimpse at the federal budget. In 2012, total welfare funding was 0.47 percent of the federal budget.


h/t Bill Moyers/ Mother Jones

I had a successful career actively working with at-risk youth, people struggling with poverty and unemployment, and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. In 2011, I made the decision to pursue my dreams and become a full-time writer. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.