What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong

Low-Income Fathers in Camden
Struggle to Break Out of Poverty

What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was WrongA recent article, “What if Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong,” in Mother Jones reports on John Hopkins University sociologist Kathryn Edin’s research on low-income fathers in Camden.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s recent Out of Reach 2014 report found that in order for a household to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Camden County, a household would have to earn a wage of $21.83 an hour and that fair market rent for a two-bedroom in the County is $1,184 month.

These statistics paint a grim picture for the poor families and single dads that Edin interviewed for her research. The high cost of housing in Camden County is one of the factors that makes it a struggle for these fathers to pull their families out of poverty.

Stephanie Mencimer writes,

“Edin spent years getting to know low-income fathers, drawing them out to talk about their love lives and use of birth control, their reaction to pregnancies, and other intimate details. The result goes beyond the welfare-queen-style anecdotes that drive headlines and policy discussions, and instead gleans truth from ordinary experiences.”

In order to full immerse herself in her research, Edin and her family moved to the low-income Camden neighborhood where she conducted her research.

“‘Conventional wisdom is that the moms are the only ones who care about the kids and the dads want to flee responsibility,’ Edin says. But she and Nelson found that the reviled “absentee father” isn’t quite so absent, nor does he want to be, and that whether he’s a deadbeat depends a lot on which of his kids you’re talking about.”

And related reporting on the issue of poverty, Mother Jones writer Erika Eichelberger busts ten myths about poverty.

The myths include:

  • Poor people are lazy when, in reality, “In 2004, there was at least one adult with a job in 60 percent of families on food stamps that had both kids and a nondisabled, working-age adult.”
  • We’re winning the war on poverty, when in reality “The number of households with children living on less than $2 a day per person has grown 160 percent since 1996, to 1.65 million families in 2011.”
  • The homeless are drunk street people when in reality, “One in 45 kids in the United States experiences homelessness each year. In New York City alone, 22,000 children are homeless.”

Click here for Mencimer’s article on Edin.

Click here for Eichelberger’s article on the ten myths of poverty.