Poverty: It Ain’t What It Used to Be (New York/ Washington edition)

Here’s the point I’ve been driving at in this series of posts. The federal definition of poverty, the chattering class’s concern with inequality, the Democrats’ interest in a vastly expanded welfare state, and various other memes are inaccurate and in fact absurd when applied to most of the country. A family at the “poverty” level can in fact afford a rather nice house in most parts of the country. In New York and Washington, however—the very places that government officials and media people live and work—things are very different. A family at the poverty level interested in buying a house has almost nothing to choose from in those cities, and the little that is available is not in very good repair. Here are examples of what I could find in New York City:

And here examples from Washington:

The exorbitant cost of living in those cities means that there is an obvious divide between the affluent and the not-so-affluent. It means that it is very difficult indeed to live in those cities on a relatively low income. And it means that politicians and media figures find it very hard to conceive how people can live on an average income, let alone one a standard deviation below the mean. That leads to all kinds of policy mistakes. It also leads to discussions in the media that have little to do with the circumstances most Americans face.

The irony, of course, is that the liberal policies that have governed cities such as New York and Washington for decades are partly responsible for the circumstances people face in them.

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