6 Myths About Poverty in America, Debunked
- 2010/04/19 12:36:20
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|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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