Cost of Living Higher than Poverty Line

A study by the Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth has concluded that a Charlottesville single-parent family with one pre-schooler and one infant needs an income of $35,695, or $16.90/hour. This is more than twice the $8/hour figure long promoted by living wage activists. (Though, to be fair, the living wage campaign assumes two wage-earners; this study assumes one.) The full report is available as a PDF. Bob Gibson has the story in today’s Progress.

31 thoughts on “Cost of Living Higher than Poverty Line”

  1. This is a serious problem and I have no answers but do have one question.Why is everything always based on the government assumption of two kids and a single parent? It sometimes seems like the government wants to endorse citizens to have childern and not to be married.

    I do agree tht regionality should be taken into account. Alot of these problems would be better addressed by making people who have childern be responsible for their offspring. Be even more aggressive in getting deadbeat dads/moms to pay their share. I believe that the state is doing a better job but isn’t the problem addressed here a failure of parental responsiblity, first and foremost?

  2. isn’t the problem addressed here a failure of parental responsiblity, first and foremost?

    No. It is society’s fault to provide for those unable/unwilling to provide for themselves. If a person chooses to remain uneducated and unmotivated, refuses to get a job, then the taxpayers must pay for their shortcomings. (Please note the sarcasm!)

    Is this report really a shock to those of us who live here? Did we need a 115 page report to tell us that housing costs are beyond the means of many working-class people?

    That there is no grocery store within a reasonable walking distance of the Downtown area, but there are myriad gourmet food shops is demonstrative of the Cville area’s predicament.


  3. first and foremost, no its not a problem of parental responsibility. it goes a lot deeper in society than that. but the questions are, “how do we prevent these situations from occuring so much” and “how do we help take care of the kids caught in these situations?”

    as for the “living wage” it doesn’t help much if you have to have two income streams to survive even if you have two parents with young children. who will take care of the kids? its absurd to calculate a living wage based on two sources of income if a large minority or a majority of homes affected are single parent.

    as to the report mentioned above…they didn’t just look at single parent households…they looked at several family make ups, including a single adult, a single adult with one and with two children and two adults with two children. the purpose of the report (which is not a government report but appears to be funded by the ford foundation) is to illuminate the amount of money that needs to be earned to meet all of the basic necessities of life for a family without _any_ governmental assistance.

    the realities are what they are and there are many different types of families around now…it makes sense to determine what is necessary for all.

  4. At what point is it not the goverment responsiblity when people choose poorly as to having childern, not being married, and looking for government help? I know it looks like flame bait but my point is when does the government get to say, “That’s it, your on your own”. I am calmly asking this question and really want to see others thoughts.

  5. “That there is no grocery store within a reasonable walking distance of the Downtown area”

    Is Reids too far for you? because three block just doesn’t seem that far to me.

  6. “how do we prevent these situations from occuring so much?”

    I give what’s the answer? I guessing don’t let poor people have kids isn’t the right answer.

  7. How about not rewarding poor people for having more children?

    Give them incentive to get jobs? Education?

    How does one teach self-respect?


  8. the point of this report is to get people to a point of “self sufficiency”…that is, to a point where they don’t rely on the government. but when you have poor people, which we do, its not enough to say “get a job” especially if the jobs don’t pay enough to live. its not enough to say “get an education” if they can’t afford health care…how would they pay for school?

    this report is important because it sets goals for people…they can see how much they need to make. if used correctly this report can help people determine the types of training they need to get themselves an appropriate job.

  9. Larger grocery stores have been tried near downtown and have all failed. I don’t know the details on each one, but a pattern seems clear.

    If you build a better grocery store downtown, I don’t think that low income people would use it instead of Reid’s. The low income downtown population isn’t large enough to support a Food Lion or other good-sized, down-market store. So you’d have to build something that can also draw business from more affluent people that work downtown but live elsewhere. Which would mean Harris Teeter, Whole Foods or the ilk.

    If a Harris Teeter opened up tomorrow in the old IGA building, the folks from Garrett Square would walk in there once or twice and just feel uncomfortable. Reid’s is a lousy grocery store and I seriously do not trust their meat. But it is a community center for their customers where they feel comfortable and can buy all of the fattening, unhealthy, overpriced foods that they are acclimated to. They know each other and they know the cashiers. It’s crap, but it’s *their* crap.

    If you think about it, the grocery store you shop at can say an awful lot about you. Think about where you buy your groceries- think about the type of people you see there. Aren’t they generally a lot like you? Grocery Stores are the gang signs of social class in America.

    The laminated Food Lion discount tag on your keychain might be proof of your card-carrying blue collar status (but of course you’ve always called yourself middle class, haven’t you?)

    So the problem of lousy shopping options for downtown residents isn’t going to get better. When you don’t have much money and there aren’t all that many of you, you’re not a very tempting market for anyone.

  10. Okay, let’s assume the worst. Let’s just say that poor people are poor because they’re stupid, immoral and lazy. Now what?

    Even if we all agree to let these people wallow in their own shortcomings and failures, do we really, as a society, want to doom their children to the same kind of lives? These babies didn’t ask to be born into lives of desperation. Nobody gave them the option to be born into two-parent households with educated, disciplined parents.

    So, yeah, it’s in all of our interests to come up with solutions. Government is one way in which we act together to solve problems of mutual interest. Solutions can also come from families, churches, non-profit organizations and businesses.

    I suppose the time when the government gets to say “that’s it, you’re on your own” is when enough of the voting public says it’s time. Personally, though, I don’t look forward to living in a society where sick and starving children are begging in the streets because their parents failed them.

  11. “I suppose the time when the government gets to say “that’s it, you’re on your own” is when enough of the voting public says it’s time. Personally, though, I don’t look forward to living in a society where sick and starving children are begging in the streets because their parents failed them”

    With the existence of social service and other services the amount of sick and starving childern on street corner isn’t many now and probably not in the future, at least in Charlottesville.In fact the larger problem is obesity and poor eating habits that contribute to poor health.

    So your answer would be never?

  12. Not to sound too callous, but how does this report “set goals for people”? Are those in the lower-income brackets going to read this report and say, “Hey! If I go back to school, I can get a good job! If only I could find a responsible person to watch all my kids.”

    The non-self-sufficient are (with some exceptions) the alcoholics and the gov’t is the bartender.


  13. If the parents do not take care of their children, the extended families should take responsibility and the parents should be removed from the children’s lives. Period.

    Bad parents have no right to impose their bad influence on their children.


  14. All I ever see at Reid’s are black people. I’m not a racist, but it would be nice to shop somewhere where I don’t stand out like a sore thumb. That’s why I like Whole Foods. Charlottesville needs to think seriously about tearing down Garrett Square and putting in some upscale condos there. And then we can raze that old Jefferson School and turn it into some nice Georgetown-style townhomes. I also think we need a gate around Garrett Square with a guardhouse at the entry so we can monitor traffic there. I bet that would cut down on crime a lot.

  15. One issue that anyone with a teen-tiny amount of common sense can figure out is that if you don’t have lots of money (ie. only enough to afford yourself), then you don’t go start having tons of kids, which is what I see happening with some in poverty. That may be heartless to some, but I see it as a no-brainer. I can perhaps excuse one “oops. i got pregnant. and i have no money.” but when it happens, two, three, four and five times, I see someone who doesn’t know the meaning of responsibility. I wish I were more charitable.

  16. Perhaps I didn’t explain my position very well.

    It would seem that we agree that various social services agencies (presumably supported by non-profits, religous groups and govermental entities in various combinations) are an effective way of saving innocent children, whose parents have failed them. I’m happy to support those efforts through my voluntary contributions and mandatory tax payments.

    I contend that, when it comes to children, you bet, it’s never right to say “that’s it, you’re on your own”. We are all of one piece, and what harms the least of us, harms us all.

  17. I think Jesus would be very proud of the vast majority of comments that have been made on this thread. Jesus always said that we should stigmatize, ridicule and malign poor people and deny them our charity and goodwill. Thank God there are so many good Christian people in our midst who understand Jesus’ message.

  18. people who work in social services will (hopefully) read this report. then they will be able to pass along the information to their clients.

    be nice if there were affordable day care that was staffed with responsible people…

  19. I love your sarcasm. Maybe we can put a gated around the neighborhoods who oppose:

    –the UVa Garage

    –traffic on Rio Road (someone up there actually wrote a letter asking for that road to be permanently closed off during the renovations about 2 years ago)

    –maybe we can only allow Asians to use the Asian grocery store (wouldn’t want to stick out like sore thumb there either) or Hispanics only to use the Hispanic grocery stores, etc.

    –maybe make a condo out of the Joint Security Complex (rename it “Le Joist”?)

  20. In a tremendous number of cases, women aren’t reproducing for the fun of it despite a lack of money. Instead, they come to be without money after they have children. Frequently what’s seen is women who divorce their husbands (perhaps he’s cheating on her, a criminal, abusive — whatever) and find themselves raising two children and needing a job for the first time since high school.

    There is, as you can see, a big difference between this scenario and the one that you present.

  21. Jesus also expected people to help themselves. He gave us free will. Those who make the wrong choices should and should expect to face the consequences.


  22. If I’m lucky, my income this year will be about $10,000. I am fortunate that I also receive child support: not quite $7,000 per year. I support myself and my daughter on that income.

    I have just within that past few months assumed the annual cost of being on the internet. This is my luxury spending for the year.

    My primary source of “welfare” is the earned income tax credit from the feds. Instead of paying income tax, they send me money. This year it was $523. The state of Virginia deemed me to be over the poverty level and I had $25 in income tax to pay.

    I am self-employed, which will answer some of the mathematical questions of the tax accountants out there.

    I also had to use the free clinic for medical care for myself this spring. My daughter is covered under her father’s insurance.

    I fully understand that my choosing to remain an active at-home parent to my child despite divorce is indeed my choice. I don’t track down programs I might qualify for unless I absolutely need them. Very few of you reading this can have any idea of the dimensions of what I do without every day.


    Very few of you realize how much welfare you receive. Most government spending decisions are geared towards giving more to folks who have stuff already. Deduct your mortgage interest? This means you own a house. Enjoy the downtown mall? It means you have some money to invest in frivilous behaviour like eating in a restaurant, going to a movie, or shopping. Traffic calming is geared towards a) people who live where the traffic is and b) the people who have cars and drive through those neighborhoods. Our common money is spent far more on enhacing the lives of the middle and above classes than it is on reducing poverty or assuaging its impact.

    The minimum wage hasn’t kept pace with itself in terms of simple adjustment for inflation and the must-have expenses of life have increased dramatically (medical options, home appliances, etc, ad nauseum).

    I live it. I’m financially responsible for myself and my child 98% of the time. But poor folk ain’t “them” and check out that beam in your eye before you complain about my mote.

  23. Since you say you are self-sufficient 98% of the time, I don’t think the arguments in this news thread apply to you. I hate to speak for all but I believe most reseasonable people believe public assistance needs to be available for those who have fallen on hard times–temporarily. My problem is with people who abuse the welfare system, which, again, should be available for those who are having a rough time financially for a time period (albiet a limited time period). And those people include women who have babies again and again and again (OR the men who impregnate those women and then walk away) and don’t take personal responsibility for their actions–they just sit back and collect the checks.

  24. "Our common money is spent far more on enhacing the lives of the middle and above classes than it is on reducing poverty or assuaging its impact."

    With all due respect this is simply not true. Most people in your situation pay little or no taxes. The money you talk about are taxes not collected against taxes already collected. And you call it "our common money", poor are mostly supported by the money collected from the middle class and rich. I have no problem with that.

    When people complain about who gets the tax breaks, in pure dollar terms, the answer is normally those who currently pay the most taxes. As I look at my taxes vs the deductions for home mortgage and the lot, I can assure you that I pay a great deal more than any deduction.

    I think reducing proverty is a noble and worthwhile goal. Let us not talk passed each other, everyone agrees that help should exist for those who need a hand, it’s the culture of entitlement that is the problem.

  25. Reid’s is a lousy grocery store and I seriously do not trust their meat.

    Skipping over the issue of whether Reid’s is lousy or not…

    I think Reid’s meat is one of the best-kept secrets in Charlottesville. They’ve got probably the best quality meat in town, with the possible (but unlikely) exception of Whole Foods. Not only is their meat great quality, but it’s cheaper too.

    Everything else in that store has the quality and price you’d expect from looking at the place, but the meat rocks.

    It’s a little-known fact that some of the better steak restaurants in town actually buy their meat there. ;)

  26. Poor people are NOT rewarded for having more children. The amount of money received from ADC programs and medicaid are inadequate for properly raising a child–that’s one of the reasons that the food that a lot of poor children is unhealthy (lack of nutrition education for parents is probably the other). The idea that welfare parents are ‘rewarded’ for having more kids is just absurd–what really happens is they sink farther and farther into their economic quagmire. The ‘reward’ theory is just conservative rhetoric.

    Affordable child care is a major problem, but I think the larger problem is that we as a society do a very poor job of establishing relationships with low-income communities that are not condescending. Most parents really want what is best for their children…poor people just have a harder time providing it. Establishing trust in social services agencies is paramount–and one of the big problems faced in Charlottesville (and I imagine other cities as well). What many poor people are faced with is an accusing finger from agencies and society–you’re a bad parent if you’re poor. Being disrespectful is really no way to get someone to try to change. Poor parents aren’t bad parents–they just need help getting on track to financial independence. If people where less condescending and actually demonstrated care for the family and faith in the parents’ potential to succeed (along with a well-planned timeline of things to accomplish) we’d be much better off. I also think it’s important to acknowledge the racial tensions that exist in Charlottesville when we talk about poverty (among other issues). My experience as a HeadStart teacher made it very clear to me that many black and hispanic families are very leery of working with white social services workers (or Headstart teachers) no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Increasing diversity in the social services organizations should be a priority.

    Many social services organizations don’t adequately market their services to the people who need them, and many who need them who DO know of them are unwilling to accept services if there are a lot of stipulations placed upon accepting them (HeadStart, for example, requires parents to be either enrolled in courses or to be employed, and parents are supposed to participate in either monthly parent meetings or volunteering in the classroom). As a former HeadStart teacher, I don’t think that’s too much to ask for (it’s very affordable childcare for the parents since it’s subsidized by the government), but people have a natural tendency to rebel when they’re told they HAVE to do something.


    1. Encouraging education and job training and providing the support for this to occur in a way that is empowering the individual and not insulting.

    2. Effectively marketing social services agencies.

    3. Eliminating overlap between social services agencies to streamline the system and make it user-friendly and less bureaucratic.

  27. So true. Less than half of all Americans pay income tax. Yet the rest of them seem to complain constantly about how our money is or isn’t spent.

    People in wealthy neighborhoods have nicer looking streets and things like traffic calming because they pay taxes. And they deserve it, because they are paying for it.

    Those who contribute nothing are entitled to nothing. Whatever handouts that they may get are generous gifts and privileges- not entitlements. I support welfare for out-of-luck people that are willing to work and conribute to society. And yes, I support things like free healthcare for children in poverty. But welfare recipients all too often get up on a soapbox about how much more they want. Funny how those demands rarely seem to be accompanied by proposals for what they intend to contribute in return.

    You don’t often hear a ‘thank you’ either.

  28. I think that what we’re discussing here is largely what does or doesn’t make good public policy- not what is a spiritually enlightened thing to do. If the government mandates charity and goodwill, then it ceases to be charity and goodwill. There’s nothing enlightened about forcing someone to fork over alms for the poor. From a real Christian perspective, giving $10 voluntarily is more charitable than giving $1,000 at gunpoint.

  29. It’s always the same story the world through: those that HAVE don’t understand how it can be not to have; those that DON’T HAVE want support and understanding from those who do. Nothing new, but very sad.

    The honest to goodness truth is there’s abusers on both sides. Many of them. In fact, too many of them in my experience. There’s the obvious "welfare-riders", although I can still sympathize with even these folks, because good old American opportunity has often eluded them and theirs for so long, they’re very angry. Look at what the economists say whenever minimum wages are sought to be more in line with reality: it would allegedly be detrimental to American lifestyle and it would cost the very jobs that are being wage-upgraded.

    Bull-shit! No one says doctors or lawyers lose their jobs when they increase their charges from $200 to $220 per hour!

    But those that have, they are selfish and cruel. Look at the CEOs of America who now earn over 41 times the average worker in their company. And that number itself is bogus because much of the time they don’t include in their earnings the larger part of the loot, such as stock options, repurchased stock options when devalued, low-cost loans, perks and all.

    For American style capitalism to work, commercial founders should be entitled to gain as much as they possibly can from the enterprise and ultimately risk. But the CEO is not a founder! Carly Fiorina has taken no real risks. How can she possibly be worth the millions she gets while she lays off thousands of workers?

    Back to the poor: I say give them opportunity and then judge them. Donít do it back-assward just because itís easier. Donít tell them to get a crummy job that wonít even pay for proper daycare and expect them to somehow pull out of the magic hat the rest of the money to pay for essentials! Make sure thereís opportunity, assist them in being responsible and THEN evaluate their willingness to be self-reliant. Thatís just plain common sense!

    Now how do you go about creating opportunity and managing this? That, on the other hand, is the difficult part. But donít we like to think of ourselves as creative Americans? And food for thought: if itís that difficult, then how can we expect the poor to make it work either?

    That’s my 15 cents worth.

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