What Does It Mean to Be Poor in America?

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America's middle class is shrinking. The latest census classifies almost half of all Americans as either poor or "low income." As jobs disappear and government programs are cut back, more people are having trouble paying their bills and even buying food. As they lose ground, credit card debt is on the rise. Still, some conservative critics say the term "poor" mislabels those who aren't seriously deprived. Has the suffering reached anything like the levels of the Great Depression? Are the ranks of the poor expanding, or have definitions merely changed?

Note: This story was informed in part from sources in the Public Insight Network. You can find out more at https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org.

Credits

Guests:
Timothy Smeeding - University of Wisconsin, Lawrence Mead - New York University, David Grodsky - unemployed specialist in bank regulations, Alica Espinoza - barista, Robert Manning - Rochester Institute of Technology

Host:
James Rainey

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Sonya Geis, Anna Scott