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6 Myths About Poverty in America, Debunked





6 Myths About Poverty in America, Debunked









With partisan bickering and punditry around every corner, it's easy for insignificant details like facts to get lost in the commotion. But have no fear — statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are here!

The OECD is the invitation-only country club of international organizations; only 30 countries are members, and they're the cream of the crop: the Old Europeans (Italy, Germany), the Nordics (Norway, Sweden), the Wealthy Westerns (United States, Canada) and the Rich Asians (Korea, Japan), with a few wild cards thrown in for fun.

For economists, policymakers, researchers and the like, the OECD is a goldmine of reliable information. It constantly collects data on every aspect of its member countries, developing comprehensive "factbooks" for public review. Using data from the 2009 Factbook, let's examine some of the common myths perpetuated, most often by conservatives, about poverty in America.

#1: The United States has one of the lowest poverty rates in the industrialized world.
Nope, sorry. At about 17 percent, the U.S. actually has the third-highest poverty rate of all the OECD countries, coming in only slightly ahead of Turkey and Mexico. Denmark boasts the lowest poverty rate, an inspiring five percent.

#2: Income inequality isn't a big problem in America.
Incorrect. Unfortunately, the U.S. still has above-average income inequality, joining the likes of Poland, Portugal, and, once again, Mexico and Turkey. Is this any surprise? After all, in 2006, CEOs of large U.S. companies made more money in a day than average American workers made throughout the year.

#3: Due to our exquisite health system, Americans live longer than residents of other countries.
Wrong, once again. The average life span of an American is below the OECD average, right above the Czech Republic. Of course, rich Americans can still expect to live to ripe old ages; an average wealthy white woman, for example, will enjoy 81.1 years of life. The average life expectancy for her poor, black, male counterpart, on the other hand, is only 66.9 years.

#4: Okay, well, due to our exquisite health system, the U.S. has a lower infant mortality rate than other countries.
No. In fact, out of all the OECD countries, we rank third to last in terms of infant mortality. But at least we get to hang out with our good friends, Mexico and Turkey, who once again join us at the losers' table.

#5: At least Americans don't have to spend as much money on health care as people from other countries ... right?
The truth is quite the opposite. Americans spend substantially more on their health than people from any other OECD country. Over 15 percent of the national GDP is spent on health care; Switzerland, the closest contender for most money spent on health care, only comes in at 11 percent.

#6: The U.S. spends more money on helping the poor than any other industrialized nation.
This is perhaps the biggest myth of all. At about 16 percent, the United States ranks fourth to last in public social expenditures as a percentage of GDP, beating only Turkey, Mexico and Korea. On the other end of the spectrum, Sweden spends about 29 percent of its GDP on public social expenditures.

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  • Pam 2010/04/19 13:43:57
    Pam
    +14
    A National Geographic graph showing the actual breakdown of your health care points can be found at:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/bl...
    But we kind of already know all this. The people who don't know it will never believe it no matter what you show them. I have never seen so many people so unwilling to read reports or listen to facts as in the last couple of years. It's as if someone put something in the water they causes many people to just not want to know the truth. These people tend to get all of their "news" from Fox and that's all they will listen to. Hint: they will NOT be reading or replying to this blog.

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  • John Rohan 2010/09/13 18:08:03
    John Rohan
    +2
    Unfortuantely, two of your points are very inaccurate.

    4. The US measures infant mortality differently than other countries. Many babies who are still considered "stillborn" in European countries are considered born live in the US, and extraordinary measures are taken to save them. These measures usually fail, thus pulling down the statistics.

    The U.S. ranks better than most European countries on a measure that the World Health Organization says is more accurate, the perinatal mortality rate:
    http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publ...



    6. The US DOES spend more on the poor than any other industrialized nation. The difference is that a massive amount of that spending is by private charities, not by the government. When you compare this way, the USA is widely ahead of any other nation on Earth:
    http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/...
    In a related note, the US provides more food aid than any other country by far - 60% of the aid in the world.

    I also noticed that you constantly compare the US statistics to Mexico's. I can't help but ask if you realize that a substantial amount of Mexico's population lives in the US? Moreover, one clue that these comparisons don't provide very useful information is that Mexicans try to sneak into the United States en masse, not the other way around.
    Unfortuantely, two of your points are very inaccurate.

    4. The US measures infant mortality differently than other countries. Many babies who are still considered "stillborn" in European countries are considered born live in the US, and extraordinary measures are taken to save them. These measures usually fail, thus pulling down the statistics.

    The U.S. ranks better than most European countries on a measure that the World Health Organization says is more accurate, the perinatal mortality rate:
    http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publ...



    6. The US DOES spend more on the poor than any other industrialized nation. The difference is that a massive amount of that spending is by private charities, not by the government. When you compare this way, the USA is widely ahead of any other nation on Earth:
    http://www.cafonline.org/pdf/...
    In a related note, the US provides more food aid than any other country by far - 60% of the aid in the world.

    I also noticed that you constantly compare the US statistics to Mexico's. I can't help but ask if you realize that a substantial amount of Mexico's population lives in the US? Moreover, one clue that these comparisons don't provide very useful information is that Mexicans try to sneak into the United States en masse, not the other way around.
    (more)
  • HL John Rohan 2010/09/13 20:47:33 (edited)
    HL
    Good educated points, and I agree with 4 and 6 depending on how you look at the data, it could be tilted the I posted it or the way you did. But I disagree with your last statement.
    The number of Mexicans living in the U.S. is very large from Mexico's perspective, too. About 11% of everyone born in Mexico is currently living in the U.S. This large-scale transfer of population has taken place fairly quickly in demographic terms. As of 1970, 760,000 Mexican immigrants, or 1.4% of Mexico's population, lived in the U.S. And in 1960, Mexico ranked seventh as a source of immigrants to the U.S., behind Italy, Germany, Canada, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and Poland.

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1...
  • myoma mars 2010/05/08 02:22:09
    myoma mars
    Thanks for the blog---USA has many in poverty, but the poverty level is more than likely a different guage.

    your next statement assumes that income inequality is a problem?
    Only socialized countries try to make every ones income the same.

    I have never heard anyone say that Americans live longer because of healthcare, but if you want to be fair why don't you compare lifestyle and vaction time that the other countries get much more of---contributing to a longer life.

    Of course we spend more on healthcare we have the best healthcare in the world.

    On number 6 you actually contradict your question---it says that the US spends more---then later ---the data you use is a percentage of GDP. Also, the USA protects many of these countries with our own money.

    Where are the comparisons to greece, portugal, italy which are all broke or going that way---or what about the UK healthcare system that is the third largest employer in the world. My problem with people making comparisons is first of all they do not matter, second of all, if you compare us in every regard to any 1 country, I think the USA wins.

    This is why the obama administration could not tell us which healthcare system they wanted to copy, because we would do the numbers and see that it would not work.
  • roxie 2010/04/21 23:52:18
    roxie
    So You Noticed this too?
    Thanks...... !
    Reality.... it's not just for thinking people.
  • AngelaHamon 2010/04/20 14:57:49
    AngelaHamon
    +2
    Thanks for some F-ing FACTS! I do appreciate your research and bringing this to light!
  • very Conservative "me" 2010/04/20 14:56:48
    very Conservative "me"
    +1
    We all know the real truth - some of this data is, and has been, kept that way for years by a government that counts on the votes of those dependent on them for their livelyhood.
  • HL very Co... 2010/04/20 16:06:21
    HL
    And you believe that both sides do this correct?
  • very Co... HL 2010/04/22 21:15:51
    very Conservative "me"
    The keeping dependent part's been going on most of my life. Every president and administration must have been contributing to it, as it isn't stopping. But I think it's now being made out to be worse than it is so that this bunch of creeps can strip us of every penny in our pockets. If these programs weren't breaking the country before, they will when you add what is it -another 30 million illegal aliens to the coffers. I believe if the progressives are all voted out a billion or even trillion will be carried out in their pockets - like the $2.9 trillion that's already missing and unaccounted for from the federal reserve.
  • HL very Co... 2010/04/22 23:28:36
    HL
    But the illigals are going back because of unemployment, what programs are you talking about? Here Fox even says tey are going back!
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/...
  • thinkaboutit 2010/04/20 04:20:43
    thinkaboutit
    +1
    hmmmm guess someone is a true liberal here huh. have you even bothered to learn the differences between the USA and other countries to figure out why u think we are soooo bad off? if u really think its that bad here why dont u move to one of those other countries?
  • HL thinkab... 2010/04/20 13:36:02 (edited)
    HL
    +1
    Have you ever sat down to figure out why your so arrogant? Sorry that it is so hard to deal with it. I have in lived other countries, I am sure you haven't. I love this country and I am never going to leave it.sat figure arrogant sad deal lived countries sat figure arrogant deal lived countries love country leave
  • thinkab... HL 2010/04/20 23:03:09
    thinkaboutit
    if u love this country so much and never plan to leave it why do u hate it soo much?
  • roxie thinkab... 2010/04/21 23:53:15
    roxie
    U seem silly! silly
  • thinkab... roxie 2010/04/22 01:49:41
  • Willl 2010/04/20 00:10:12
    Willl
    +1
    Let me ask you this one silly question.
    What is the difference of being poor in the USA and being poor in Turkey or Mexico?
    And if there is no difference, why so many Mexicans risk their lives and spend a lot of money to jump the border?
    USA poverty level is around $22,000.00 annually. Show me one more nation in the world, including European nations, where people earning $18,000.00 a month are considered poor. Keep in mind that these nations pay more for energy, especially gasoline. USA - $3.00 a gallon. Europe - $9.00 a gallon.
    Ask your fiends while you at it how many flat screen TV’s they own and why do they have to go to INTERNATE CAFFEE to check their e-mail.
  • HL Willl 2010/04/20 02:18:23 (edited)
    HL
    The divergence of absolute poverty is much greater across countries than that of relative poverty. We calculated two different thresholds with values of 5 Euros/day and 10 Euros/day, adjusted with the purchasing power parities. We find that the Baltic States suffer from the highest rates of absolute poverty within the European Union, together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Even if poverty may be lessening for the world as a whole, it continues to be an enormous problem:

    One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.
    Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.
    In 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day
    800 million people go to bed hungry every day.[11]
    The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor" based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people consider elements of poverty. Most important are those necessary for material well-being, especially food. Many others relate to social rather than material issues.


    And Europe's dizzying fuel costs would be...











    The divergence of absolute poverty is much greater across countries than that of relative poverty. We calculated two different thresholds with values of 5 Euros/day and 10 Euros/day, adjusted with the purchasing power parities. We find that the Baltic States suffer from the highest rates of absolute poverty within the European Union, together with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. Even if poverty may be lessening for the world as a whole, it continues to be an enormous problem:

    One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.
    Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.
    In 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day
    800 million people go to bed hungry every day.[11]
    The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor" based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people consider elements of poverty. Most important are those necessary for material well-being, especially food. Many others relate to social rather than material issues.


    And Europe's dizzying fuel costs would be even worse if it weren't for the considerable appreciation of the euro and the British pound against the dollar over the past year, which has partially offset the price escalation in dollar-traded oil.

    One big reason for the difference is that European governments put a much higher tax burden on fuel than the U.S. does. State and federal taxes currently make up just 11% of the pump price in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration; in France and the U.K., taxes account for an average of around 70%

    On top of that most Europeans drive cars that are fuel effeicient you will rarely see a Escalade or a Tahoe in Europe.

    The collapse of the U.S. economy — particularly the housing industry — has forced the Mexican government to start preparing for an influx of returnees in the months ahead. As was the case with most illegal immigrants lack a social safety net in the USA and could have no choice but to return to Mexico, where at least they can count on family to provide shelter and food.

    The migrants who remain in the United States are sending home less money . Across Mexico, migrant remittances dropped 6.5% from $6.33 million in the third quarter of 2007 to $5.92 billion in the same period this year, according to Mexico's central bank. The effect has been amplified in poor towns that rely heavily on money from migrants abroad.


    http://www.usatoday.com/news/...
    http://www.time.com/time/worl...
    (more)
  • Willl HL 2010/04/21 00:55:45
    Willl
    +1
    Thank you for copying & pasting an excerpt from the OECD web site but you still did not answered my questions.
  • HL Willl 2010/04/21 02:30:52
    HL
    I did respond to your question and this is not from OECD website.
  • Willl HL 2010/04/21 23:40:21
    Willl
    Yes you did respond to my question but you did not answer it. Besides it does not matter where you copied your respond to me from. What matters is that you are using someone else's work without crediting the author.
  • Edward 2010/04/20 00:00:29
    Edward
    +1
    the message should be loud and clear,i think it's time the American people let government have it with both barrels.
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HL

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2008/07/21 16:10:44

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