What follows is not to be read as a listing of stereotypes. Rather, these descriptions get at characteristics that various low-income persons exhibit. I've encountered thousands of people over the last two decades here in Dallas who come to mind as I lay out this list.
So, "who are the poor" anyway?
1. The poor are intelligent. Income is no failsafe measure guaranteeing wealth or success financially. And, being impoverished doesn't mean a person is stupid. To the contrary, I've known highly intelligent people who live in poverty. The vast majority of people are not poor because they are stupid.
2. The poor want work. In conversation after conversation, I've had men, women and youth begging me for work, for a job, for gainful employment. Whether its in a formal workforce training effort or on the street with the homeless, the subject of jobs always come up.
3. The poor are often under-educated and low skilled. Again, almost all people can learn, grow and develop. But the fact is some poverty is caused by being under skilled.
4. The poor are hard working. Low-income people who have jobs work like crazy! Countless families with whom we work have more than one job. Poor folks aren't afraid to work.
5. The working poor need more money. Self-evident it would seem. But most of us don't understand the pressure to survive under which these families and individuals live. Low or inadequate skills lead to low wages. We have a wage crisis in our nation.
6. The poor love their children. Nothing more to say really.
7. The children of poor people are under-experienced and under-exposed to the largeness of the world. The funds needed to place children in enrichment activities is simply not available to the poor. Thus, children miss out on lots that others of us take for granted.
8. The poor are often compromised by poor health. Forced to use the ERs as makeshift medical homes, the poor suffer disproportionately with all sorts of chronic conditions not as prevalent among the more well-to-do.
9. The poor battle "toxic stress." The daily pressure to provide the bare essentials of life place people in positions of stress and psychic strain that just doesn't let up. A growing body of research substantiates the negative impact of this unresolved, unrelenting stress.
10. For the most part the poor don't eat healthy diets. Limited funds drive people to cheap, processed food high in calories. The combination of lack of income and accessibility often blocks poor people from healthier food selections.
11. The poor are loyal. Friendship and human connections bind folks together in low-income communities.
12. The poor are amazingly generous. It would be impossible to recount all of the times I have witnessed very poor people sharing from their meagre holdings to benefit someone else in need.
13. Basically, the poor are like you and me. . . just without the financial resources.