The High Cost of Being Poor

Posted on May 21, 2009 • Filed under social-justice

A sobering summary of how hard it is to be poor, and why it’s so hard to break out of poverty.

You don’t have a car to get to a supermarket, much less to Costco or Trader Joe’s, where the middle class goes to save money. You don’t have three hours to take the bus. So you buy groceries at the corner store, where a gallon of milk costs an extra dollar.

A loaf of bread there costs you $2.99 for white. For wheat, it’s $3.79. The clerk behind the counter tells you the gallon of leaking milk in the bottom of the back cooler is $4.99. She holds up four fingers to clarify. The milk is beneath the shelf that holds beef bologna for $3.79. > A pound of butter sells for $4.49. In the back of the store are fruits and vegetables. The green peppers are shriveled, the bananas are more brown than yellow, the oranges are picked over.

[...] “When you are poor, you substitute time for money,” says Randy Albelda, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. “You have to work a lot of hours and still not make a lot of money. You get squeezed, and your money is squeezed.” [...] The rich have direct deposit for their paychecks. The poor have check-cashing and payday loan joints, which cost time and money.

“You substitute time for money.” Evidence that free time is the greatest luxury in the world?

When you’re poor, everything costs more, even free time.

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