B1 Intermediate US 54 Folder Collection
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Whatever you think poverty today looks like...
...it probably doesn't look much like this
In one of the most affluent counties in America...
...people are queuing for handouts...
...of diapers
We've had clients come to us that have said...
...I've rinsed out a diaper and I've re-used it...
...I've turned a diaper inside out and I've re-used it
Sometimes I've left my child in a diaper for far longer than I should have
There is no government support in America to help pay for diapers
And many poor families struggle to afford them
America is the richest big country in the world
Its unemployment rate couldn't be much lower
So why does it have so many people living in poverty?
In America almost 40m people are living in poverty
That's nearly one-eighth of the population living...
...on less than $26,000 a year for a family of four
Here's the thing though...
...poverty in absolute terms has actually decreased in recent years
But the nature of poverty is changing...
...and that change is making it much harder to fight
Poverty used to be more of an inner-city phenomenon
But as housing costs rocketed, poverty exploded in the suburbs
Now there are 3m more poor people in suburbs than cities
Yet suburban counties spend one-tenth as much...
...to support poor residents as urban counties
Which is why some residents of Lake County, Illinois...
...depend on charity handouts for diapers
Our schedule for the rest of the year
So you can come twice a month, just not twice in the same week
Ann Marie Mathis is a local mum
She set up the charity nine years ago in her basement
Initially she distributed second-hand children's clothes to poor families
But soon she found there was an overwhelming need for diapers
Diapers costs $70-80 a month per child
So that's an expense that many, many families struggle to afford
People are faced with you know not only diaper need...
...but by hunger, homelessness
It's very prevalent even here in what's considered a wealthier community
Xavier has been using the diaper pantry for the last few months
For her it's a lifeline
Our budget goes on rent and food...
...anything that's not covered by health insurance
Let me take this shirt off, you've got another one on
Clothing is a big thing for five kids
There's a programme, they help out a lot with healthy food
And you can get some vouchers with beans, cheese, milk
I cook a lot of spaghetti because it usually lasts longer
Poverty in America is becoming more concentrated
We know that the effect of being poor and living in a poor neighbourhood...
...is much worse than being poor and living in an integrated neighbourhood
Especially for children, in terms of the kind of school that they go to...
...or their exposure to crime
And it's children who are affected the most
One child in every six in America is poor
I see other families and they're out enjoying this and they're at the mall...
...or they're at these events
My kids ask and I had to keep saying I can't, we can't
How did it come to this?
To understand we need to go back to the 1960s
President Lyndon B. Johnson went on a poverty tour of America
And he was so shocked by what he saw he launched an ambitious plan
And this administration today, here and now...
...declares unconditional war on poverty in America
That war involved an array of programmes...
...designed to create a safety net...
...many of which still exist in some form today
These included expanding both the cash benefit for the elderly...
...called Social Security, as well as food stamps...
...which help poor families buy food
And largely they were successful
If we look at the data—without the safety-net programmes...
...roughly the same number of Americans would be as poor today...
...as they were in the 1960s
But if you include the effect of the safety-net programmes...
...that number comes right down
Elder poverty in the 1950s was a huge problem...
...but along the way Social Security hugely reduced...
...the amount of poverty among the elderly
Sounds good, but not if you compare America's efforts...
...with other wealthier countries
Before the benefit of safety nets is applied...
...America's poverty rate is comparatively low
But with it included, it's one of the worst performing...
...only slightly above Costa Rica
In part, that's because America's safety-net programmes...
...have tended to benefit the elderly more than other groups...
...like working-age adults and children
Those programmes are not doing as much as they might...
...in a country like Finland, for example
Finland has a child-poverty rate before taxes and transfers...
...that are on par with America
And after its safety net kicks in you cut that down to about 3%
In America you don't do that at all
Child poverty in America is remarkably high...
...for an advanced, developed democracy
You have to ask yourself what is the future of a society...
...that doesn't invest in its children?
The problem is food stamps, for example...
...can only be spent on specific things...
...which doesn't always include the most obvious items
Unlike Social Security for the elderly...
...whose recipients are handed cash to do as they please
It's lunchtime and back at the pantry it's been a very busy day
We've given out 5,925 diapers so far...
...with an hour and a half left to go
Since Ann Marie started the charity...
...she says they've given out 1.2m diapers
And every week more and more families are registering
The safety-net programmes that exist in the United States in general...
...do not cover diapers and that's a common misconception in the community
The problem is safety-net programmes are targeted...
...so that many people don't qualify
They are restrictive. There are behavioural conditions...
...increasingly attached to them...
...and all of this can lead to a bureaucratic nightmare of red tape...
...from which it's almost impossible to escape
In America there's an ongoing debate about whether...
...giving poor people cash leads to dependency
Yet the evidence from other countries...
...shows that cash benefits can really help dent poverty
Since Canada implemented a child benefit of a few hundred dollars a month...
...they have seen their child-poverty numbers decline by about a third
It's reasonable to expect that a programme of similar magnitude in America...
...would also generate the exact same effect
One candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination...
...has even made this a central part of his campaign
I'm Michael Bennet from Colorado...
Colorado senator, Michael Bennet, has proposed monthly cash transfers...
...of $300 for each American child...
...as part of wider proposals to help poor people
School kids all over this country, they're living at a time...
...when we have got the worst income inequality that we've had in 100 years
You've probably never heard of him...
...which tells you a lot about America's political appetite for reducing poverty
Poor people are much less likely to vote...
...so their issues are rarely vote-winners
If you're working two jobs...
...and trying to make sure your kids are walking safely to school...
...in a gang-infested neighbourhood...
...are you going to the block party for your member of Congress...
...and making a campaign donation so that he or she will listen to you?
The pantry's closing for the day
For the families who use it, poverty does not need to be inevitable
There is a way out. Other countries around the world have done it
It's really possible
Presuming you're a wealthy country with the resources...
...and you have a reasonably strong economy
The choice is a political one
I know that there's something better coming...
...and then we'll look back on it like we got through it
We're strong. We're going to be stronger because of it
I'm Anna, the director of this film
If you'd like to see more of the journey that brought us to the diaper journey...
...you can watch the story behind American poverty...
...by clicking on the link opposite
The other link will take you to some of the resources that we used...
...when we were researching this film...
...including other exclusive material
Don't forget to subscribe so you can see all our latest releases...
...and if you hit the bell button it will notify you whenever we post a new film
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Why is there still poverty in America? | The Economist

54 Folder Collection
李柏毅 published on July 13, 2020
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