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today we begin a series called north carolina voices understanding poverty for the next two weeks on morning edition all things considered and the state of things we'll explore the subject of poverty in detail will be looking back in time to the nineteen sixties when north carolina and the nation were engaged in major efforts to find and fight the causes of poverty we want to know what has changed since that and why today there are nearly thirty six million americans who live below the federal poverty line more than a million of them in north carolina who are they why are they poor and what is being done about poverty now we start our series this morning with a simple question but one with a complicated answer what is poverty here's laura leslie in nineteen sixty four as the war on poverty was getting underway a researcher named molly or shan ski invented the federal poverty level or shinsky found that the average american family spend one third of its income on food so she took what the government called an economy food plan and multiplied that cost
by three and the federal poverty level was born or shinsky retired twenty five years ago but throughout her life she has never claimed her number meant that people are by that weren't poor it was only the point below which people couldn't feed themselves in two thousand won and she told npr she certainly didn't think her calculations would still be used they haven't changed this in all the time then it was mandated by congress anyone would think that we needed change it it probably right i told him that then today adjusted for inflation the country's official poverty level for a family of four is nineteen thousand three hundred fifty dollars a year few people think that's enough to get by on in a new poll conducted for north carolina public radio by ilan university fewer than fifteen percent of north carolinians sad it was enough the progressive north carolina justice center looked at basic average expenses for rent childcare food and so on
and the reason why hamas is a really cost to live and that when we studied it we found that people needed more than twice the federal poverty level to live on average in north carolina if they had children sorry and she it was one of the study's authors she says the government isn't doing enough to help families in poverty meet their basic needs but robert rector of the conservative heritage foundation sees it differently he says the poor have never been better off i think that the average citizen and the average listener when they hear the word poverty and they are thinking about individuals that lack adequate food for their kids maybe like clothing lack inadequate apartment or house to live in and if that's what we mean by poverty there is virtually no poverty left anywhere in the united states rector says the average american who meets the official definition of poverty still has a car to color tvs cable air conditioning a
washer and dryer and a microwave and if you ask them they will report that during the last year they were able to obtain medical care whenever they needed those four individuals been able to feed his family throughout the year and families not hungry and they've had sufficient funds to meet all essential needs during the year it doesn't always look south they still warehouse in north mali the food bank of eastern and central north carolina sends out two point two million pounds of fruit every month thirty four counties mostly through the work of volunteers today its charter high school eighty thousand teaching at a holiday food bank's development director she says for many of the center's four hundred thousand or so clients poverty still comes down to hunger and i think they're waiting to see he's certainly not
starvation people do mistakes that it is being hungry and secure not knowing where your next meal is coming home knowing where your next meal would be holiday says most of the people who use the food bank are working poor families making tough choices between paying rent paying bills or buying food we aren't they a last resort in many cases they've tried very hard to make ends meet and families can't can't figure where the next meal is coming from that's inexcusable in this country robert rector with the heritage foundation doesn't deny that some americans face tough choices but he says yves in the poorest americans are still better off than people in much of the rest of the world a fact he says we've lost sight of when we talk about poverty in third world countries we're usually talking about the world bank standards are individuals that have an income of less than a hundred dollars a year per person of the federal poverty level in the united states has about twenty times higher than that so right off the bat we can see that we're not talking about even remotely the
same thing in that most people literate enough it is poor here in the united states in fact would be considered upper middle class and most third world countries on a rude krishna says rector's right up to appoint question is a public policy professor at duke university he spends a lot of time studying poverty in kenya uganda and india oh sure you pick the poorest person in america and transport them with all the dollars they possess to the ugandan community that i study and they would not be poorer in terms of the sheer number of dollars they possess but in terms of where they stand when they're back in the united states that bore the definitely polar krishna says different communities see different things as basic an essential food clothing and education for one's children are on everyone's list but beyond that what you need and whether you're poor depends on where you are poverty is a relative concept and it cannot be absolutely but it's relative to one's needs its relative to what one borns and does not born but it's also the relative to how other people
live and how one is oneself expected to live in a particular situation christmas favorite example of the car and most of the foreign communities he studied a car as a sign of wealth but in rural north carolina he says a car is a basic need in order to get to work so just because a poor man in north carolina would be a rich man in india it doesn't mean he isn't poor at home in our poll while most north carolinians thought people needed much more than the official poverty level to get by only about fifteen percent said they themselves are poor and that it turns out is just about how many of them actually are living at or below that official poverty level story and shred of the north carolina justice center says defining poverty is tricky even among poor people themselves there's a lot of people who can't meet their their family's needs every month and know that they can't the women call themselves poor and that's fine you don't want to be
labeled no one wants to be labeled but it goes back to this discussion should you be working full time and nights have enough to have a child with your spouse or two children and is that the society we want i'm a rude krishna has a different set of questions he wants to know not just what it means to be poor in north carolina but how many people here are permanently poor as many are in the third world and how many moves into and out of poverty mobility could explain a lot and krishna is hoping to study in north carolina this summer will provide some answers i'm laura leslie north carolina public radio w and c
Morning Edition
North Carolina Voices:Understanding Poverty
What is Poverty?
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WUNC (Radio station : Chapel Hill, N.C.)
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WUNC (Chapel Hill, North Carolina)
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Episode Description
Morning Edition tries to answer the simple question of "What is Poverty" but find it has a complicated answer.
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North Carolina Voices: Understanding Poverty is a series of reports, documentaries and call-in programs that aired on North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC in April 2005.
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Social Issues
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Executive Producer: Emily Hanford
Producer: Leslie, Laura
Producing Organization: WUNC (Radio station : Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Reporter: Leslie, Laura
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North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC
Identifier: NCP9903/1 (WUNC)
Format: Audio CD
Duration: 8:05
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Chicago: “Morning Edition; North Carolina Voices:Understanding Poverty; What is Poverty?,” 2005-04-00, WUNC, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 30, 2023,
MLA: “Morning Edition; North Carolina Voices:Understanding Poverty; What is Poverty?.” 2005-04-00. WUNC, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 30, 2023. <>.
APA: Morning Edition; North Carolina Voices:Understanding Poverty; What is Poverty?. Boston, MA: WUNC, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from