The Washington Post ran an article by DeNeen Brown last month that began with the seemingly contradictory statement, “you have to be rich to be poor.” How can that be? As the article explains, the poor often pay higher prices for goods and services in their neighborhoods, and, perhaps more importantly, they pay much more in time and hassle:
“Prices in urban corner stores are almost always higher, economists say. And sometimes, prices in supermarkets in poorer neighborhoods are higher”
“Time is money, they say, and the poor pay more in time, too. When you are poor, you don’t have the luxury of throwing a load in to the washing machine and then taking your morning jog while it cycles.”
“The poor pay more in hassle: the calls from the bill collectors, the landlord, the utility company.”
“The rich have direct deposit for their paychecks. The poor have check-cashing and payday loan joints, which cost time and money.”
The article contains lessons from several “guest lecturers,” the poor themselves. Take a look and learn from their stories. Many of the things that most of us take for granted – shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, paying bills and borrowing a little money, finding decent childcare – are infinitely more difficult for the poor.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation has been at the forefront of identifying the high cost of poverty, both for individuals and society. For example, see the essay on “The High Cost of Being Poor” in their 2003 edition of the Kids Count Report, as well as a Resource Kit with strategies for helping people overcome the high cost of poverty.