Comments about ‘Getting unstuck: Why some people get out of poverty and others don't’

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Published: Sunday, Nov. 10 2013 6:00 p.m. MST

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salt lake city, UT

Lighting the Way,
I think your approach is incorrect. People go to the government because they have no other choices. People don't want to be on welfare nor do they choose it--they would much rather be able to provide for themselves. Unfortunately their circumstances do not allow for it.
By removing the welfare program entirely you would further cripple a class that already is the most disadvantaged. How could they think about going to college when they don't know where their next meal is going to come from? Saving money is impossible when you need every cent and more in order to keep the electricity turned on or prevent eviction? Welfare can be a stepping stone for people to enable themselves to gain financial stability and independence. It is not a crutch for the weak, it is a lifeline.



"I think your approach is incorrect. People go to the government because they have no other choices. People don't want to be on welfare nor do they choose it--they would much rather be able to provide for themselves. Unfortunately their circumstances do not allow for it."

In 39 states, welfare programs pay better than the starting salary for a secretary, this is from watchdog dot org.

Helping people in need is good, but welfare needs to be revamped and limited in time for those that are physically and mentally able to work.

Kings Court
Alpine, UT

It is interesting to see how some people on these forums are so fixated on poor people receiving government assistance (welfare) that they fail to see an epidemic of government assistance (welfare) to large corporations. There are two welfare classes in the United States, the very poor and the very rich and the rest of us are stuck holding the bag.


"Helping people in need is good, but welfare needs to be revamped and limited in time"

The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act granted states the ability to design their own systems, (for cash assistance) as long as states met a set of basic federal requirements. The bill's primary requirements and effects included the following:

Ending welfare as an entitlement program;
Requiring recipients to begin working after two years of receiving benefits;
Placing a lifetime limit of five years on benefits paid by federal funds;
Aiming to encourage two-parent families and discouraging out-of-wedlock births;
Enhancing enforcement of child support; and
Requires state professional and occupational licenses be withheld from illegal immigrants.[24]

In granting states wider latitude for designing their own programs, some states have decided to place additional requirements on recipients.

Mchenry, IL

The American dream is that your social level isn't set by birth. It's not. That doesn't mean everyone goes up. It can mean someone going down. It means you not have to work in a specific occupation because that is what your father did. It means you can go to school seven if you are a girl or farmers child.

Iowa, Iowa

May I suggest reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne. There are different rules for staying in poverty and rising above it.

Planning ahead for future need just seems beyond the ability of some.

I have siblings that spend every dime they have and every dime they can borrow. That habit keeps them in poverty. They probably wouldn't admit it but they really never plan to pay what they have borrowed. They are also always surprised when perfectly predictable expenses arise.

I do know we have the sick among us that cannot provide for themselves and I am not talking about them.

Sioux City, IA

Lost in this article is the fact that not all on welfare are on it for the same reason(s). Some have always needed it, some have been forced onto it, and some have learned to work the system so that they can do other things while receiving it.
Until we as a Nation find and make the appropriate changes this will continue.

Allen, TX

I grew up in the bottom 10th. I have 3 siblings. They are still in the bottom 10th. I am somewhere in the middle, earning over $100K. Here are my contributing factors, different from my siblings:

1) Eagerness to work- I was laid off in 2009 - unemployed for the first time since 1972, when I first started slinging newspapers. While I applied for unemployment, I never collected it, because in the 5 months between 'real' jobs I worked at Home Depot.

2) Ability to learn from others' mistakes- I saw that drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviors around me only yielded unhappiness, and was unwilling to live like that. But this also extends to social, entertainment and pastime decisions.

3) Desire for an education- I was the first to go to college on either side of my family. It looked for a long time that the only option would be a military academy. I loathed the idea, because I had grown up with a dad in the military and hated the lack of family life it delivered, but was willing to go that route to get an education. Fortunately, a series of miracles afforded me the opportunity (cont)

Allen, TX

(cont.) to attend a small state school. I worked 3 jobs, took a constant overload (avg. 23 hours) and graduated with 3 BAs, but still didn't know what I wanted as a career.

4) Willingness to try new things- I have worked as a paperboy, street paver, bus boy, sewer maintenance worker, waiter, singer / actor, ditch digger, singing waiter, loan officer, model, restaurant manager / trainer, Finance company asst branch manager, hotel manager, technology inside sales, technology field sales, Home Depot freight team member, and technology Territory Sales Manager. Tomorrow, I'll probably sell shoes....

5) Willingness to help others- Because of humble beginnings, I have always tried to be active in volunteering and donating to charities. Habitat for Humanity, BSA, GSA, Community Theater, you name it. Others need help to get out of the bottom 5th, too.

Dammam, Saudi Arabia

@J-Tx. Good for you.

I think that if someone wants to fight poverty, that the government is not the solution. (It may be a necessary band-aid but it isn't a solution). If you want to fight poverty go into the poor parts of town and help children learn. I used to volunteer to tutor junior high school students in the poor black part of town where I lived. That is how to fight poverty.

Allen, TX


I completely agree. One-on-one is how you make a difference. Because I speak fluent Spanish, and many of the at-risk in Texas are Hispanic, much of my outreach is in that community. Good thing I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.

Sugar City, ID

I've always had a pretty average income but and better off than most in my income bracket. One thing that has made a huge difference is that I have never made a car payment. If I couldn't pay cash, I didn't buy it. My cars were usually dependable but they were not anything to brag about. But we've saved literally thousands of dollars in interest over the years. Also, insurance is less. Just a little advice for people who are financially stressed and looking for a way to save money.

spring street

@ Kralon: Business Insider has a very good article that debunks that claim. It also addresses ways to eliminate welfare traps and encourage people to return to work instead of punishing them for it.

Brave Sir Robin
San Diego, CA

Too many red herrings in this comments section. It actually has very little to do with welfare or dependency or government handouts. It has everything to do with education.

In the poverty cycle, parents are poor because they don't have a good education. Because they don't have a good eduction, they don't understand the economic value that comes from a good education. And because they don't understand the economic value that comes from a good education, they don't emphasize the importance of education to their children. And because they don't emphasize the importance of education to their children, their children do poorly in school and don't end up getting a good education. And we're back to the beginning of the poverty cycle.

I've seen the cycle and seen it broken in my own family. My grandparents and great-grandparents were poor farmers. It wasn't until they emphasized to my parents the need to go to college that my progeny was lifted from the cycle of poverty. It's not a coincidence - education is the key to lifting generations from poverty.

Salt Lake City, UT

Recently there were 5 billion cuts in food stamp funding. That is an amount equal to the entirety of all food banks across America. Republicans wanted to cut 40 billion from it...

Brer Rabbit
Spanish Fork, UT

There has never been a time in this country when education and opportunities for minorities have been more available than today. There has never been a time when more resources have been available to lift people out of poverty, but they seem trapped by their own lack of vision.

Lack of vision, and a victim mentality hold many people back. This is being fed by the breakup of the family and a lowering of values of integrity and work ethic. It is easier to blame than to take the necessary steps to change, especially when you have been convinced by the media and government that it is not your fault. It is going to take more than money to turn this around.

South Jordan, UT

The analysis in this article is flawed. It starts with this quote: "One of the hallmarks of the American Dream is the belief that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can achieve economic success." That suggests an "if-then" postulate. IF you work hard and play by the rules, THEN you can achieve economic success.

(As an aside, I don't know who determines the rules but education, frugality, saving, generosity, etc certainly must be included in the rule set.)

However, this article uses data from the entire population including those who do not satisfy the IF part of the postulate. How can you determine if the American Dream is still alive (as defined by the author) if you include data that violates the opening premise?

By the way, I see economic success stories (moving up at least one level) all the time but invariably by people who satisfy the "work hard and play by the rules" criteria.

The American dream is not a flawed concept. Just the analysis is flawed.

San Bernardino, CA

Savings, education, etc all boil down to one thing. Some people have to have their reward now, and some can save it for later. I rose from the bottom quintile to the top. Many of my friends and siblings did not. The biggest difference is that I saved and worked hard. When they were buying cool clothes and having fun in high school I put my money in savings for college. In our twenties they got jobs that made them feel rich and partied every weekend while I went to the library. I went on to graduate school and lived like a pauper while they bought stuff, traveled and played. Now I make more than 10 times what my dad made, have a huge savings and still order from the dollar menu, shop at Ross and drive a 7 year-old truck. Meanwhile I see people all the time who I know make a fraction of my income and have the fanciest phones, new cars and expensive clothes, while receiving welfare benefits. I don't know what makes some people need an instant gratification and some not, but those who can wait are the ones who make it far.

  • 12:41 p.m. Nov. 11, 2013
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Pleasanton, CA

That's why they call it the American "dream"--because it doesn't always come true.

Atlanta, GA

A popular Atlanta radio show host simplified getting out of poverty into three steps:

- Wait until you're married to have children.
- Stay out of jail.
- Get a job and keep the job.

It's not overly difficult. My family came out of the bottom too by paying attention to consequences and thinking before acting.

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