Our Fifty Million Poor:
Forgotten Men of the Affluent Society
A FAIR statement of a current myth about poverty in the United States would probably go something like this: the poor are a small, rapidly declining group; they have achieved a substantial measure of protection as a result of the reforms of the New Deal; insofar as they exist, they are mostly non-whites and rural Southerners; and as industrial productivity continues to rise, they will entirely disappear.
Such is the myth. The facts present the hard outline of a different, and far less pretty, picture. As many as 50 million Americans continue to live below those standards which we have been taught to regard as the decent minimums for food, housing, clothing, and health. These millions are, in fact, a predominantly urban, white population; they have scarcely been affected by the reforms of the past quarter-century; and as a group they have profited least from the striking gains in productivity which have characterized the American economy since World War II.
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