We all have different attitudes -from the sympathetic to the cynical- toward the notion of poverty. That’s likely because the messages we hear about poverty are typically not from those in need, but from those commenting about those in need. Here’s a short quiz to test your knowledge of poverty:
1. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Assuming full-time, year-round employment, how much would a parent have to earn to rent a modest, two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing [the standard for affordable housing]?
a. $7.25 per hour, $15,080 per year
b. $10.78 per hour, $22,422 per year
c. $15.22 per hour, $31,657 per year
d. $18.44 per hour, $38,360 per year
2. More than 40 million people received food stamps or SNAP benefits in 2009. What was the average daily benefit per household in 2009?
3. A single parent with two preschool-age children living in Dallas would need what income to pay for necessities like rent, food, and childcare? What is the federal poverty line for a family of four?
Test over, pencils down.
No matter your score, the truth is that, while the majority of us have a high degree of sympathy for those living in poverty, we might have a lot less empathy. We feel for the poor, but we really don’t know what it’s like to feel like the poor. Indeed, a University of Michigan study on empathy found that today’s 20-somethings are 40% less empathetic than those of the 1980’s and 1990’s. Over the course of three decades, empathetic concerns among the sample decreased a full 48 percent. The study concluded: “Accordingly, it’s reasonable to expect that lower average test scores could signal hard times for the anti-poverty crowd”.
Empathy is an essential tool in fighting poverty according to a noted psychotherapist: And, empathetic thinking can be learned. We can refocus our thoughts, feelings and behaviors in the direction of empathy. To help foster a keener sense of empathy, Community Lifeline Center and Collin College are co-sponsoring a Poverty Simulation event. Poverty Simulation is an experience developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action. Participants portray members of a low-income community attempting to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty. The simulation relies on role-playing techniques, and extensive props to help participants understand the day to day challenges faced by families living in poverty.
Poverty Simulation is an important event to help all of us better understand poverty and more deeply empathize with those in need. Mark your calendars, and RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to register:
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Conference Center – Central Park Campus
2200 West University Drive
Oh, the answers to the quiz?
1. A parent would need to earn $18.44 per hour, more than double the federal minimum wage, to afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment at a fair market rent without exceeding their housing budget
2. Households receiving SNAP benefits in 2009 only received about $9 per day to meet their hunger and nutrition needs.
3. Millions of families across the country struggle to pay for high-cost necessities like food, rent, and child care. A single parent of two preschool age children living in Dallas would need an annual wage of $45,782 an hourly wage of $22; but the poverty line is only $22,050, and that’s for a family of four.