Is poverty just a 'state of mind'? | The Tylt

Is poverty just a 'state of mind'?

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson says poverty is just "a state of mind." He and others who share this view think poverty comes from an unwillingness to work hard and make the right choices. If they did, they could get ahead. But anti-poverty experts say that's inaccurate. Poor people often have few opportunities to find anything but low wage employment. Systemic issues like criminalization and rising housing costs also drive people deeper into poverty. It's not so simple. What do you think? 💰

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Experts on poverty say Ben Carson's argument that poverty is a "state of mind" is just an extension of the tired "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" ethos common in American culture. Poverty is much more complex and systemic than Carson makes it out to be. 

Poverty is a demanding, stressful, depressive and often violent state. No one seeks it; they are born or thrust into it. In poverty, the whole of your life becomes an exercise in coping and correcting, searching for a way up and out, while focusing today on filling the pots and the plates, maintaining a roof and some warmth, and dreading the new challenge tomorrow may bring.

MIT economist Peter Temin says it's entirely possible for the poor to get themselves out of poverty through education, but it's a 16 year path starting in childhood that's incredibly unforgiving. Any single mistake can block opportunities for life. Systemic problems, like lack of funding for education in poor areas, mass incarceration, and a failing public transit infrastructure, make poverty almost impossible to escape.

Many cities, which house a disproportionate portion of the black (and increasingly, Latino) population, lack adequate funding for schools. And decrepit infrastructure and lackluster public transit can make it difficult for residents to get out of their communities to places with better educational or work opportunities. Temin argues that these impediments exist by design.
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People say the media is taking Ben Carson's comments out of context. What he means when he says poverty is a "state of mind" is that it's not impossible to break the cycle of poverty. Poverty is the product of bad luck and bad choices compounded across a lifetime. It's not easy to break out of the cycle, but it is possible. 

Armstrong Williams, the radio host Ben Carson was speaking with, says the poverty mindset comes from systemic problems like lack of educational attainment and few opportunities to develop relevant job skills. But there are also easy fixes like delaying childhood and finishing high school. Here's how Williams explains the "poverty mindset." 

This in turn helps foster a cycle of poverty. Your children grow up without role models of success. Most of the people around them and with whom they associate are also in the same conditions — growing up in broken homes, without intact families, supported by government assistance. They begin to believe this is the norm. Why can’t they do it too? So they end up dropping out of school, having kids out of wedlock, and failing to advance to a middle-class lifestyle. This is what’s known as a "poverty mindset."
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FINAL RESULTS
Culture
Is poverty just a 'state of mind'?
#PovertyIsAMindset
A festive crown for the winner
#PovertyIsATrap