Thursday, July 3, 2014

Do You Fit The Stereotypes Of Poor People?

“Poor People are Substance Abusers!” 
"People Who Have a Low-Income spend their money frivolities and are unwise with their budgets!"
“Poor People Are Ineffective and Inattentive Parents 
"Poor People Are Linguistically Deficient and Poor Communicators" 
"Poor People Do Not Value Education" 
"Poor People are Lazy" 

People with low-incomes or "poor people" are stereotyped in innumerable ways (Williams, 2009). Below are few stereotypes and facts (the first 5) taken from a book called “Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap,” by Paul C. Gorski, associate professor of integrative studies at George Mason University. The book, which draws from years of research to analyze educational practices that undercut the achievement of low-income students, is part of the Multicultural Education Series of books edited by James A. Banks and published by Teachers College Columbia University. Please like their Facebook HERE!

Stereotype 1: Poor People Are Substance Abusers

FACT: Low-income people in the U.S. are less likely to use or abuse alcohol than their wealthier counterparts (Galea et al, 2007; Keyes & Hasin, 2008; NSDUH, 2004). Interestingly, this pattern is consistent internationally. Around the world, alcohol use and addiction are associated positively with income; in other words, the higher somebody’s income, the more likely he is to use alcohol or to be an alcoholic (Degenhardt et al, 2008).

Stereotype 2: Poor People Do Not Value Education

FACT: The evidence, in fact, suggests that attitudes about the value of education among families in poverty are identical to those among families in other socioeconomic strata. In other words, poor people, demonstrating impressive resilience, value education just as much as wealthy people (Compton-Lilly, 2003; Grenfell & James, 1998).

Stereotype 3: Poor People Are Linguistically Deficient and Poor Communicators

FACT: Studies have shown that low-income people communicate with the same sophistication as their wealthier peers. For example, Mary Ohmer and her colleagues (2010) studied the communication strategies used by members of a low-income, predominantly African American community who had assembled to confront a variety of neighborhood problems. They documented how people at these gatherings discussed and modeled complex communication techniques that could help them address these problems effectively with their neighbors.

Stereotype 4: Poor People Are Ineffective and Inattentive Parents

FACT: Researchers routinely have found that low-income parents and guardians are extremely attentive to their children’s needs despite the many barriers they must overcome to provide for their families. This is no less true for poor single mothers, who often are the most scorned targets of the “bad parent” stereotype. We already established, for instance, that poor single mothers overwhelmingly claim a sense of responsibility for inspiring their children to pursue higher education. More broadly speaking, when Robert Hawkins (2010) used a variety of qualitative research techniques to examine how 20 formerly homeless single mothers use their social networks to improve their lives, he found that they prioritized the wellbeing of their children in virtually every decision they made. He also found that they were not shy about seeking the help they needed to provide a good life for their children, even when doing so made them vulnerable or uncomfortable.

Stereotype 5: Poor People Are Lazy

FACT: The truth is, there is no indication that poor people are lazier or have weaker work ethics than people from other socioeconomic groups (Iversen & Farber, 1996; Wilson, 1997). To the contrary, all indications are that poor people work just as hard as, and perhaps harder than, people from higher socioeconomic brackets (Reamer, Waldron, Hatcher, & Hayes, 2008). In fact, poor working adults work, on average, 2,500 hours per year, the rough equivalent of 1.2 full time jobs (Waldron, Roberts, & Reamer, 2004), often patching together several part-time jobs in order to support their families. People living in poverty who are working part-time are more likely than people from other socioeconomic conditions to be doing so involuntarily, despite seeking full-time work (Kim, 1999).

Stereotype 6: Low-income people enrolled in government programs spend the money on frivolities and are unwise with their budgets

FACT: According to an analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics families who receive public benefits such as housing assistance, welfare cash assistance, food stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security Income (SSI) for the disabled or low-income elderly have much smaller spending budgets than those who don’t receive benefits and spend a bigger portion on the basics such as food, housing, and transportation

The purpose for this note is to help STOP the stereotypes we have for "poor" or people with low-incomes. Most of us can learn a lot from a person who can live off a small amount of money. Seek to admire, learn from all, and not discount differences because you never know what role you will play in your future.


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