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Hi Izzy, if the issue should be to compare poverty in the United States and poverty in Europe, then I need to know what and how you want to compare it.  

How do you measure poverty? How do you define a poor underclass? Are the definitions the same in the countries you want to compare them?

Do you measure poverty just by income level? How would that be possible, if you don't know what the incomes you compare can buy in form of quality of life in each country?

Do you compare the Social Safety Nets the different countries in Europe and the US have and under which circumstances they kick in to save someone to drop into poverty? Considering that the Social Safety Nets are different in different countries, do you account for their different impact on the level of poverty?

Do you compare unemployment numbers with the assumption that a country with an higher unemployment rate has more poverty than another country with less unemployed? If you compare unemployment numbers with such an intent, do you account for the different ways unemployment is registered and counted? Do you adjust for the different Social Safety measures a country offers to the ones who lose a job and how they impact the poverty level of those unemployed?

Do you want to compare "Europe" as a whole to the United States? How would that even be possible as European countries have very different Social Security Nets, different income levels etc.

Do you want to compare "educational levels" with the assumption the higher the percentage of people with higher education the lower the poverty rate and the higher the educational levels the higher the upward mobility and the lower the probability of a persistent poor underclass?

If you want to do that, do you consider that upward mobility through increases in the rates of people with higher education is different in different countries? Do you account for the different ways you can curbe the access to higher education and potentially higher upward mobility in different country's educational systems?

Do you want to talk about upward mobility of the poor class towards the lower middle class to middle class with the intent to prove that a larger poverty rate can be balanced against a higher upward mobility in one country versus another country's lower poverty rate combined with a lower upward mobility rate?

I feel guilty to have unintentionally and without giving it a thought initially introduced some off-topic issues in Coleman's debate thread about unemployment statistics, for which I have already apologised.

What I realise though is that the level of poverty in a country is not just dependent on the country's economic system, unemployment statistics or number of people with higher education. You can't measure poverty just by one set of data.

Sounds to me like a lot of comparing apples, oranges, bananas and cherries with the risk of getting out something comparable to a tasty fruit salad. :-) That is to say that I love fruit salad and appreciate your attempt to tackle the issue very much.

Can we agree on a subset of things we try to compare for a start?

by mimi on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 12:21:32 AM EST
Ah, mimi, this is why I'm so fond of you!  You just drag it all right out in the open!  So many arguments to have!  I'm not sure I have the strength, but you do get the pot stirring!

I think we have, in various threads including poor Colman's, been comparing apples, oranges, etc.  My whole goal has been to establish that there's a pretty big poverty problem in the US and that a  lot more are struggling.  That's it.

As to comparisons, I think they are useful for finding causes and solutions and other educational purposes.  If they're being used "prove" that some people don't have it so bad or someone else has it worse -- one-upping in other words -- then I think comparisons can be detrimental to the discussion.  But I wholeheartedly encourage the former types.

And I think you're correct that income is a relative thing.  I'm not sure what subsets would be valuable to compare.  It's getting late here now and I'll be off to bed soon, but I think the recent UN report would give us some good ideas.  Plus, I have every confidence that other things will come up in this thread as the Europeans awake and I go off to have sweet dreams. Play nice while I'm gone! ;-)

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 12th, 2005 at 01:08:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
poverty can be most feasibly defined, imho, by certain objective measures.  infant mortality, malnutrition, educational access and follow-through, security of housing (or any housing), food security, freedom of mobility, average lifespan and causes of premature death.

if you have a substantial number of people whose lives are curtailed below the national average lifespan due to causes associated with deprivation -- malnutrition, exposure, life in insecure "war zones" rife with violence and virtually unpoliced, arbitrary violence from whatever police presence there is -- then I think it is safe to say that you have substantial poverty.  

it is possible to be "wealthier" in terms of good diet, personal security, health and longevity as a cash-poor peasant in a supportive cultural matrix than as a working-poor American through whose hands more dollars flow each year.  so I would stick to actuarial stats if I were trying to figure this out.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 05:18:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you, DeAnander.  Somehow you've distilled the essence of the thing I howl about in a succint and practical way.

As to the part about "life in insecure war zones" (and I'll have to find the link) a study came out not too long ago showing that children in some areas of our inner-cities do suffer ptsd and all the associated problems of living in this way.

Honestly, we can talk about jobs and the economy and education -- and those are all good things -- but I think if I could choose just two things to change that I believe would help the most, I'd choose national healthcare and ending the drug "war."

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 13th, 2005 at 05:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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