The Value Gap: ‘If you’re earning $20 an hour in San Francisco, it’s impossible to survive’: What the U.S. gets so wrong about poverty

by | Aug 6, 2023 | Stock Market

The Value Gap is a MarketWatch interview series with business leaders, academics, policymakers and activists on reducing racial and social inequalities. We need to change the way we’re looking at poverty in our nation in order to take steps to fix it, says the author of a new book titled “The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity.” Mark Robert Rank, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis who has long researched poverty and inequality and written other books on those issues, uses a musical-chairs analogy to explain.

“The traditional way of looking at poverty in the United States” focuses on those who are experiencing it, Rank said in an interview with MarketWatch. Most economists point out that people living in poverty may have less education and fewer skills, and some health problems, he said. “That certainly explains who tends to lose out at this ‘game’. But that’s only explaining who isn’t finding a chair. It doesn’t explain why there aren’t enough chairs in the first place.” In his book, Rank writes: “The key is whether one chooses to analyze the losers of the game or the game itself.” That “game” — influenced by American ideals of success that glorify rugged individualism and self-reliance and therefore tends to place much of the blame on individuals — includes systemic and structural problems such …

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