The price of poverty

 

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.54.35On some level, everyone is a consumer. You can be the staunchest anti-consumerist in the world, but at the end of the day, I’ll still see you in the toilet paper aisle.

A consumer marketing principal is that you (the consumer) purchase items with three “heads.” Your mind, which regulates the consumption of rational, or even survival items, such as deodorant, toothpaste, and food. A good deal of the companies that fall into this category are known as CPG, or Consumer Based Good brands (such as Unilever – which makes all of the products I just listed.)

The second place a consumer purchases an item from is their heart. These items are, you guessed it, products you love. You see a shirt, or a jacket, or a phone case, or whatever, and you want it – so you buy it.

At its core, the difference between the mind and the heart fundamentally seem pretty small, since they are both examples of consumerism. However, the defining difference here is that you don’t really need the stuff you want. This means that the products themselves are the differentiators between classes. The products in this class also do not cary much social-value. Who cares what brand of flip-flops you wear?

No one. So I’m not going to pay much attention to these two classes. For the context of what I’m talking about, they’re not important. The type of deodorant you wear doesn’t define your social status. The fact that you wear it does.

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.55.17The third and final place consumers purchase items from is their genitals. These are items that, for whatever reason, you really really want. These products are luxury items, and generally speaking, they cost the most to own out of the three categories. These, more than any other products in existence, act as status symbols. A $20,000 Rolex, and a $20 Timex fundamentally do the same thing, but a Rolex says you’re well-off, and a Timex says you were recently in a CVS.

And it doesn’t even have to be something as extreme as a watch that costs more than my car, either. If you own an iPhone, statistically, you are perceived as more wealthy and well educated than your friend with an android.

This is great for brands, because often they make the most profit out of products in this class. One example of this is Porsche, who makes a higher profit per each car sold than almost any other auto maker in the world.

Now the question is, how does this correlate into our income inequality problem in America.

As it turns out, studies show that the people who cannot afford the items in the third class, are the people who often seek them out the most. This study found that Google searches for luxury items are higher in states with more income inequality.

Does this mean there is a direct correlation to poverty and Google searches for Gucci? No. However, it does shine light on the research patterns of the haves and the have-nots. Literally, more people google aspirational products in states where there are more extreme examples of poverty.

What this says is that people want — prepare yourself for a technical term here — crap. Our society places a heavy value on material positions. And the more expensive the item, the higher social value it brings to the consumer.

I was curious to see how much a t-shirt from Gucci cost. So I looked it up. $850. For those who care about fashion, it’s impossible to stay en-vogue without having deep pockets, or a second mortgage. It’s for this reason that cheap fashion is starting to rise, though it has a nasty dark side. The human cost to produce an economical but trendy fashion product is astronomical. The clothing in Walmart is literally created in sweat shops, forcing workers to work in inhumane and hazardous conditions, all for a t-shirt.

So, now that we have outlined a problem here, how is it fixed?

I’m not sure. There really is no Call to Action here. There’s no rally against consumerism; you’d just look crazy. I think the most important way to deal with the dark side of consumerism is to deal with it piece by piece. Address sweatshops, and than move on from there, for example.

The first step is knowledge, and, since you made it this far in my blog post, I can only assume you have left with a little more knowledge on the subject — which is good.

However, this is our last blog… which is bad. So, as I, the student must go off and forge new paths ahead, you, the reader must also do the same. You have done something to lead you to this blog, which is great. But it’s now your turn. Take it from here.

 

…NOW what?

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.43.09Over the course of a semester, our class has learned plenty about wealth and income inequalities. We visited a homeless shelter and got to see just how people are impacted by poverty. We addressed the various subcultures that are impacted by certain policies such as red lining and pay gaps. We watched countless videos, read heart-wrenching articles about the plight of poverty, and listened to guest speakers address the situation from their own viewpoint.

But now what? There is now a moral responsibility on us to act upon what we have learned. We did not sit here learning about the atrocities that are occurring to turn a blind eye on the most vulnerable. After learning so much, how can you feel that there is not an issue that is amongst us?

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.42.59So here’s my theory: if instead of sharing that Facebook post of participating in that lecture, go out and do good. I speak for myself, my classmates, and those of you reading this article. Whether you have been watching the news or reading our blog, it is well known that there are people in our communities that need help. Now is the time to do something and give back. Now is the time to act.

It does not have to be a major commitment. Donating your extra clothes, money, and time is sufficient. Writing letters to your legislators asking for policy changes is enough. Just sitting on the sidelines, that is not enough. So, as we get ready to shuffle off into the real world my last message is this: do good in the world, and help your neighbors. We are all humans, and we all could use some more compassion.

By Allison Smith

An eye-opening class…

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.38.01This semester, we went through all aspects of wealth inequality.

We talked about women in poverty, low-income housing, food deserts, and so much more. I’m going to write about how this class has influenced me in the best way imaginable.

Before coming to this class, I didn’t know the meaning of wealth inequality but through experience I had a pretty good idea of what it was. I would gain a better knowledge of what families in poverty go through. I saw in the documentary Solar Mamas exactly how important women are in getting their families out of poverty. Many women who are in poverty or are homeless are single mothers. I learned that even though women are paid less than men, especially if you are a woman of color, they will always work hard to give their family a better life.

People in poverty may just need that one step to help them achieve greatness. That is when affordable housing comes into play. My family and I are in affordable housing. When I was researching this topic, I was sad to find that not many states have options for affordable housing. These programs help people with low incomes have a roof over the heads. Not many people know of affordable housing and I believe that if more people were informed, then there would be more energy put into providing it.

The last topic that struck me was food deserts. I had never heard of food deserts until we talked about it in class. It is something that I have seen in many rural areas but never paid much attention to.

When we were able to come up with ways to solve the problems of food deserts, it gave me a rush. Here we are in class and we were able to brainstorm ideas on how to help people and change their lives. We may have only been presenting to each other but it still felt amazing to come up with ideas.

This class has truly opened my eyes and made me view the world differently. It has been an amazing semester and end to my senior year.

By Arnelle Louis-Pierre

 

 

Free money. Say whaaaat?

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.29.30How does a free monthly income sound? Amazing right? But how exactly would this work?

Universal Basic Income.

There are five characteristics to a universal basic income:

  1. Periodic – regular interval incomes
  2. Cash payment – appropriate way of exchange for everyone, no limits on spending rights
  3. Individual – paid per person
  4. Universal – available for everyone with no limits
  5. Unconditional – no means to work or demonstrate willingness to work

This isn’t new. It dates back to the 16th century, but we are still trying it out.

If this isn’t a new idea, why haven’t more communities adopted it?

This summer, the province of Ontario will begin a three-year project to test the universal basic income in 3 different cities. Randomly, about 4,000 individuals will be chosen to receive up to $12,570 annually.

The only requirement is the recipient must be between the ages of 18 and 64 years old and living on a low income. (However, the basic income should be universal, meaning anyone should receive the income, even the rich.)

Researchers want to find out what everyone is wondering: Will this program leave a positive impact?

Screenshot 2017-04-28 10.31.41The point of the basic income is to provide enough for individuals for basic needs, which include food, shelter, and education. There are no controls on how the money can be spent, which means people may not spend the money for the “right” reasons. There’s no control if they spend it on unnecessary desires or illegal activities.

I believe there are a lot of situations that can play out in the test project in Canada. I hope they’ll keep us posted.

By Nicole Pierce

 

 

About this semester…

I did not know what to talk about in this last post so I decided to touch on some of my favorite topics that we discussed this semester.

One of the most memorable discussions we had was about the wealth and income inequality in Connecticut. I remember talking about how Connecticut is among the wealthiest states in the United States, but also contains some of the poorest neighborhoods in towns such as Bridgeport and Hartford. I mentioned I had family in the Hartford area, probably five minutes from each other but the members of those families ended up in two different school districts.

One district was West Hartford and the other Hartford.

The differences between their schools were tremendous. According to West Hartford’s district profile and performance report, West Hartford only has 783 African American students in their school district which only amounts to 8 percent, while Hartford has 6,565 African American students, which amounts to 30.6 percent of the school district. The Hispanic community makes up 52.5 percent of the Hartford school district.

The way the government sets up districts lines is unequal and leaves the lower class with terrible resources, especially in the urban areas.

I also want to mention another topic, that people in urban areas not being able to access healthy and nutritional foods. This segment brought to my attention that supermarkets and alternative (healthy) options such as Whole Foods are usually in wealthier neighborhoods and suburban areas. We discussed why this might be and we came to the conclusion that it could be a number of variables for both the business and the consumers who shop there.

For the business, the crime rate may be a big factor in where they put their business, but for the consumer, access to transportation or prices may be a big factor in whether they shop there.

Basically, this class made me conscious of the world around us, and the reasoning behind everything and how America got to where it is and how it is now. This has been one of the best college courses because it always had me thinking and all of the coursework was very interesting, all thanks to Professor Campbell’s teaching style. Thank you.

By Tyler Jarrett

The burden of blame

Screenshot 2017-04-27 22.04.04Being poor and being anxious about money can reduce your mental capabilities. This loss is, on average, equal to losing 13 IQ points — about the same drop that would occur to a chronic alcoholic, or someone who had just pulled an all-nighter.

I’d wager a guess that most people reading this aren’t chronic alcoholics, but that most of you have spent at least one night in your lives without sleeping. Do you remember how that feels? Bleary-eyed, detached — like you’re somewhere else, lost in the fog. Now imagine trying to find work, to present the best you possible, to survive poverty in America while you’re stumbling through life, the weight of tomorrow’s uncertainty constantly weighing on your mind.

Screenshot 2017-04-27 22.04.50Poverty is a vicious cycle here in the U.S.A.’s capitalist, free market economy. When discussing poverty, people often place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the poor. Society often expects the poor to lift themselves up by their bootstraps and make a living for themselves – after all, everyone has equal opportunity here in the land of the free… right?

A large body of research suggests that much of our intelligence is based in our genetics, but that these genetics can only fully express themselves in nurturing, positive environments. People who live in neighborhoods with plentiful birds, trees, and shrubs have much lower incidence rates of mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Our environments matter; our environments shape our experiences and our realities. So tell me again, how exactly do poor people have the same opportunities as the middle-class and the wealthy?

I went to college, I met people with connections in the TV and film business, I spent my free time pursuing my passions and making friends –- all with the financial support of my parents. These are the opportunities that have given me a good life and a bright future. Had I spent that time worrying about money and the roof over my head, I can’t say I would have come out the other end the same way. Who knows how many brilliant, golden hearts there are out there, struggling under the murky veil of poverty.

The increasing pace of workforce automation pushing out human labor will put almost 60 percent of global jobs at risk within the next few decades. What exactly do we plan to do with all of those people who won’t be able to find work, tell them to figure it out themselves?

By Daniil Chupalov

Imagine by the year 2030…

Screenshot 2017-04-27 21.59.52…you could eradicate extreme poverty, inequality, injustice, and fix climate change. With the help and support of all 193 Member States in the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030 can be achieved.

Although the world has made remarkable strides by cutting more than half of extreme poverty rates since 1990, over 800 million people are still struggling on less than $1.25 per day.

By 2030, the SDGs hope to end poverty in all its forms, everywhere. The goals not only ensure economic resources and basic services, but also ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, appropriate new technology and financial services.

Targeting 169 aspects of these 17 Sustainable Development Goals may seem impossible to achieve by 2030. However, working together to transform our world free from poverty and achieving the SDGs by 2030 is practical and the solutions are easy. For example, The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World is a call to action from your couch!

The smallest actions can make a big difference and the smallest person can be a big component to fix climate change and fight for equality. The Lazy Person Guide to Saving the World encourages everyone to do their part in sustaining the planet. Being a couch potato can positively help the planet. The UN highlights how the actions of sofa superstars, household heroes, and the neighborhood nice guy can impact the prosperity of the planet. Imagine by the year 2030, we can be agents of change and invest in the future we want.

By Ellen Callahan