The Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank, has released a report entitled “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” The report collects data from various federal government departments, including the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development and concludes that the average impoverished American lives with more amenities than popularly expected.
Some national data points from the report include:
- 64.9 percent of impoverished households have satellite or cable TV
- 74.7 percent of impoverished households have air conditioning
- 99.7 percent of impoverished households have a refrigerator
- 7.4 percent of impoverished households report having not enough food
The report argues that American poverty has been misrepresented and that the average family living under the federal poverty line has more material comforts than previously expected. This argument is potentially contentious among social service workers and poverty advocates.
To turn this into a story:
- Talk to local poverty advocates about the report and get their reaction. Ask them about any specific misconceptions they see in the report.
- Ask public policy and poverty experts at a local university about the report’s methodology. Do they think it is sound? Are there any problems with the definitions and categories the report uses?
- When writing a story, be sure to cite specific data points as supporting the reports final conclusions: that poverty is misrepresented in America and impoverished families live at a higher level of material comfort than popularly expected
- A possible story could use the following structure: Summarize the report, citing statistics, conclusions and arguments from the report. Quote experts and advocates as they clarify and respond to the report.
- To use this report in a more in depth story, interview and visit families living under the poverty and compare their life findings with the reports findings.
Poverty reporting and commentary from across the web: