When the average person thinks of someone who is in poverty, immediate stereotypes come to mind. Do they eat ramen noodles multiple times per week? Do they get their food from the food pantry? Are their kids on free and reduced lunch? Do they have to wear old hand-me-clothes? Are they living in a homeless shelter? Have they ever been outside of their neighborhood?
When we think of poverty, most of us think of the obvious cues. These are the kind of things that we grew up noticing about our peers who seemed to have less than we did. Most of us didn’t realize, however, that more than a third of the kids in our grade-school classes were experiencing it, or that they were one financial misstep from being there.
The Census Bureau classifies someone as being in poverty when their family’s income is less than the family’s necessary expenses. In 2022, the poverty line for a family of four is $27,750. While for many of us, this number seems extremely low, it is the reality for many.
There are a lot of families, however, that struggle to stay right above that line. Those individuals meet the criteria for what United Way classifies as ALICE, an acronym that stands for asset limited, income constrained, employed. These individuals earn above $27,750 a year, but they still do not have enough to afford a bare-bones household budget.
These may be the families that no one suspects. Their son may get to play youth sports. Their daughter may spend hours transforming hand-me-downs into upcycled fashion. The mother may save loose change in a jar for field trip fees. Yet, the father stresses every night his car won’t start in the morning, and he’ll have to choose between getting to work or feeding his family.
Being above the poverty line does not mean you are not in poverty, and that’s something we as Hoosiers need to think about.
Poverty is much closer and much more prominent than we may notice in our day-to-day lives. 37 out of 100 of us are under financial stress.
That stress is steadily increasing with gas prices and inflation. Those extra dollars that were once used to buy groceries, might be split between transportation costs.
The lack of stability faced by many Hoosiers is truly sad and is currently increasing daily. It’s time to start paying attention and finding ways to help.