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
    A National Geographic graph showing the actual breakdown of your health care points can be found at:
    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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  • HL EEEE "I... 2010/04/21 12:56:22
    He can't deal with the truth no matter what FACTS you give him he will always be denile. He can't accept the distruction Bush did during the eight years.
  • EEEE "I... HL 2010/04/22 01:09:17
    EEEE "Its not always a race issue, sometimes its a people issue"
    Whats so bad is that Bush's destruction has overlapped into Obama's term, yet they blame Obama like it all began with him...its funny how right followers have very very short term memory
  • what the EEEE "I... 2010/04/22 13:02:07
    what the
    its all bush's fault again
  • Chico 2010/04/19 16:17:42
    You might try amassing some unbiased info..........Oh and also amassing unbiased info
  • EEEE "I... Chico 2010/04/19 17:05:54
    EEEE "Its not always a race issue, sometimes its a people issue"
    how is this biased info???..LOL...do you know what Biased means???
  • HL EEEE "I... 2010/04/19 21:58:55
    Chico means little........
  • EEEE "I... HL 2010/04/19 22:15:51
    EEEE "Its not always a race issue, sometimes its a people issue"
  • HL Chico 2010/04/19 19:13:09
  • Common ... Chico 2010/04/19 22:01:10
    Common Sense

    Interesting logic.....
  • HL Common ... 2010/04/19 22:12:00 (edited)
    So are you going to give me your reaserch and facts or will you be a grounds keeper all your life.
  • Common ... HL 2010/04/19 22:22:55 (edited)
    Common Sense
    I was commenting on Chico's tendency to discount anything and everything that doesn't fall into his line of thinking, even when facts prove otherwise.

    And you'd be surprised what a good groundskeeper can make. ;)
  • HL Common ... 2010/04/19 22:25:21
    Yes i caught that sorry, I though you meant it at me my appologies.
  • Alex Common ... 2010/04/19 22:15:44
    Facts have a liberal bias. Ask any RWNJ, they'll confirm it.
  • mac -Ho... Common ... 2010/04/19 23:06:55
    mac -Holding Fast
    Where did the research come from? The WHO, correct? It's only a cursory understanding of the situation. How does each country report? What do they report?

    Ask more questions.
  • Common ... mac -Ho... 2010/04/20 00:18:17
    Common Sense
    These are not new numbers. These numbers and statistics come out every year. What do you mean "ask more questions". Aside from doing the research myself, an unbiased international organization's research is sufficient enough.
  • mac -Ho... Common ... 2010/04/20 02:47:54
    mac -Holding Fast
    Right. And if you could find an unbiased international organization, it wold be enough. As it stands, the WHO do not have a strict set of rules for defining most of these statistics you tout- leaving it up to the individual countries to make up their own standards.
  • HL mac -Ho... 2010/04/20 02:54:42
  • mac -Ho... HL 2010/04/20 03:50:17
    mac -Holding Fast
    So, you got it from an organization other than WHO?


    They are known for their lack of standards in statistics gathering.

    organization httpwww cmaj cacgiconten standards statistics gathering

    Better look in the mirror. Denial. Psh.
  • HL mac -Ho... 2010/04/20 03:56:15 (edited)
    Hey where are your links to back up your claim?

    hey limks claim
  • mac -Ho... HL 2010/04/20 04:01:14
    mac -Holding Fast
    Uhm, it's the hyperlink immediately above the image I posted. And spam would assume I repeatedly posted the same exact thing over and over again.

    Are you in fact a moron? Or are you hoping to fail a competency test so your best friend can adopt you?

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