Rich? Of course not! Let’s look at why…
A common misconception from the average foreigner that sees an American on vacation is, “Well, he or she must have money. Let’s charge them a teeny bit more.” And there’s good reason to think this way. Just look at the value of the dollar compared to any kind of peso, real, yen, rupee, or ruble. The values are outstandingly disproportionate. So, Americans on vacation can be charged a little more. Don’t feel sorry!
The thing is, you have to look at how many Americans travel abroad. The fact is only about 11% of us traveled abroad last year when you don’t count Mexico or Canada, which was even less than the year before it. I don’t even want to imagine how few traveled this year (2020, Covid-19, etc.).
The poverty threshold in the U.S. is set at $25,700 a year for a family of four, which accounts for some 38 million Americans.
Those that are more likely to be poor are:
- single-parent families rather than couples
- women, in general, rather than men
- children rather than elder people
And there are nearly 4 million disabled persons living in poverty
Native Americans and blacks are also most likely to be poor, while whites and Asians are equally the least likely. But that’s a common trend pretty much everywhere.
So, that’s just talking about “regular poor.” What about those living in real, intense poverty? Well, counting Americans that make less than half of what’s considered the poverty threshold, there are still over 17 million that live in this zone called “extreme poverty.” That means they go hungry, that they don’t have a place to live, or live in dreadful conditions, if not on the street. That’s not to mention the over 93 million that are almost in poverty; that means if one tiny string gets cut, they’re qualified. To add to all that, there are even higher rates of Americans that face unstable access to sufficient food than those facing poverty. Surprising, isn’t it?
Now, don’t feel too bad; the vast majority of Americans work and are able to make a solid living, even live well. Due to the relatively developed infrastructure and welfare system, most poor people in the U.S. don’t have to live on the streets or in shantytowns like in so many other countries. The poverty rates calculated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development) show that the U.S. has higher poverty rates than countries like Chile, Mexico, Turkey, and Russia, and falls at almost the bottom of all income metrics when compared to other “developed” nations.
To explain better, this doesn’t mean that the poor people in the U.S. are in worse states than the poor in Mexico, for example; it just means that there are more people in poverty in proportion to the overall population. After all, America has over 2.5 times more people than Mexico. Mind you, the way each country defines poverty is slightly different, so there very well may be more Chileans living in extreme poverty than Americans, even though there are more Americans living in poverty overall.
With all that said, Americans, in general, are better off than those in many countries, and our nation does have lots of programs that make life a little easier than it would be in a “developing” nation. Still, despite high rates of employment, poverty and hunger are still common issues across the country in both the biggest of cities (look at the homeless in Los Angeles) and rural areas (look at some of the unincorporated towns of California). California is a whole other special case, but you get the point.
Poverty is a global problem that of course affects some places more than others. The U.S. in all its capitalist glory is, yes, still one of those places. Check the resources to learn more!
Americans that travel abroad: https://www.statista.com/statistics/214774/number-of-outbound-tourists-from-the-us/#:~:text=In 2019%2C there were approximately,of 41.77 million overseas travelers.&text=Excluding visitors to Canada and,in 2018 at 41.77 million.
Poverty and hunger demographics in the U.S.: https://www.povertyusa.org/facts
Poverty rates in OECD nations: https://www.statista.com/statistics/233910/poverty-rates-in-oecd-countries/
A more in-depth look at poverty statistics in the U.S.: https://www.epi.org/publication/ib339-us-poverty-higher-safety-net-weaker/
Low-income places in the U.S.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_lowest-income_places_in_the_United_States