By Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer
Jessica Compton’s kinfolk of 4 might haven't any money source of revenue except she donated plasma two times per week at her neighborhood donation middle in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna in Chicago usually don't have any nutrition yet spoiled milk on weekends.
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Extra info for $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
Johnson City thrives due to its “eds and meds”—education and health care—plus the ongoing strength of manufacturing in nearby Kingsport. Elderly migrants from the North are attracted by its very low cost of living. Yet economic need is readily apparent in the city’s trailer parks, cheap apartments, and government housing developments. Even farther south, the Mississippi Delta has long been among America’s poorest places, dubbed “the most southern place on earth” by the historian James C. Cobb, due to the fact that its cultural and economic history is so characteristic of the region.
With the SIPP, it was fairly easy to estimate how many American families with children were reporting cash incomes below this very low threshold in any given month. Like any good social scientist, Shaefer tried hard to prove Edin’s observations wrong. He wouldn’t just focus on family income (as our official poverty measure does). Instead, any cash coming to anyone in the household—related or not—would be included. He would include any government benefits that came in the form of cash. He’d add private pensions.
Thus, as Modonna’s earnings fell from $17,500 to nothing, the annual cash and food stamps she could claim from the government also fell, from $5,700 to $4,400. Welfare pre-1996 style might have provided a lifeline for Modonna as she frantically searched for another job. A welfare check might have kept her and her daughter in their little studio apartment, where they could keep their things, sleep in their own beds, take showers, and prepare meals. It might have made looking for a job easier—paying for a bus pass or a new outfit or hairdo that could help her compete with the many others applying for the same job.