Certain segments of the population are fond of citing irresponsibility and poor choices as the primary driver behind the lack of opportunity for poor households. A few months ago, one article began claiming that people didn’t need welfare because they had microwaves and TVs! Often, the general public takes such claims at face value because they don’t have a good sense for whether these paradoxical narratives are accurate. Programs such as Teach For America and City Year are beneficial to society in part because they can potentially create a forum for authentically telling the stories of low-resourced communities. Ideally, we would be able to hear success stories directly from corps members who persevered despite challenging backgrounds like their students; moreover, TFA, City Year and other similar programs can help participants from dissimilar backgrounds learn the truth about their students’ families, ultimately coming to understand that people living in poverty aren’t actually freeloading leeches as some pundits prefer to claim.
With that in mind, I wanted to pass along this graphic courtesy of NPR and GOOD News that helps demystify the way American’s of different income levels spend their money. Overall, we spend in striking similar ways, which for me is refreshing to see. However, the major differences are in spending on Education and Savings for Retirement. According to this data, the wealthy spend over FIVE times more on retirement savings than the lowest bracket and nearly TWICE as much as the middle class. Moreover, families earning more than $150,000 annually spend 4.4% of their money on education expenses compared to less than 1.5% for families earning less than $70,000 annually. I would be interested to see these numbers broken down in greater detail, but this chart alone illustrates how a lack of financial resources can limit opportunity for families of lesser means- not because they are spending money on fancy fridges.
Relatedly, check out this clever video about Money and Politics below.