Poverty Myths & Issues

10 Myths About Poverty and Homelessness

1. Myth: Poverty isn’t really a problem in Minnesota – or at least not in my neighborhood.

Fact: Minnesota is quite fortunate to be among the U.S. states with the lowest poverty rates. However, poverty really is an issue in Minnesota. According to the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) 10.8% of Minnesotans were living in poverty, which amounts to 577,196 people–175,079 of whom are children under the age of 18. In fact, the ACS study also revealed that the rate of people living in poverty was significantly higher than the state average in the Twin Cities Metro Area of both Hennepin County (11.9%) and Ramsey County (15.9%). Poverty  is defined as having an annual income of about $24,300 for a family of four. Additionally, a 2015 study conducted by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation found that 9,312 people in Minnesota were experiencing homelessness.

2. Myth: No one goes hungry in the United States of America.

Fact: In 2017, The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported  that 40 million people in the United States, including 12 million children, are currently living in food insecure households. Here  in Minnesota, 508,630 (or 1 in 11) people are struggling with hunger–and of them 163,070 are children, which means that every 1 in 8 children are food insecure. Food insecurity, according to Feeding America, “describes a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life.”

3. Myth: Poverty is a big-city problem

Fact: Cities  in Minnesota do experience a high rate of poverty, however, rural areas in Minnesota are not immune to poverty. High unemployment rates in many rural counties contribute to high poverty rates. Following are the 2016 poverty rates for Minnesota’s largest cities, side-by-side with the poverty rates for some of the poorer rural counties in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Cities: St. Cloud (23.2%); St. Paul (21.6%); Minneapolis (21.3%); Duluth (21%)

Minnesota’s Rural Counties: Mahnomen County (22.4%);  Beltrami County (19.1%); Clearwater County (16.7%); Cass County (15.9%); Wadena County (15.5%)

4. Myth: Providing help for the homeless in Minnesota will only cause more homeless people to move in.

Fact: According to findings from the most recent Wilder Foundation homelessness study, over half (53%) of those surveyed lived in Minnesota for most or all of their years growing up (until age 16). 77% of those surveyed reported having lived in Minnesota for 3 years or more, with an additional 7% reporting living in the state at some point. Additionally, almost half of respondents (48%) reported that they have lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years.

5. Myth: Most of the homeless are chronically homeless. They have been homeless for a long time and will continue to be homeless.

Fact: Due in part to the economic recovery, the Wilder Foundation found that the rate of homelessness in Minnesota has declined  for the first time in more than ten years (-8 % in the seven-county Twin Cities Metro Area, and -13% in greater Minnesota.)

6. Myth: Government programs take care of the poor.

Fact: While government programs strive to provide adequate assistance to people in need, public assistance alone does not provide for the resources required to empower people to lift themselves from poverty. For instance, on average, individuals receiving government assistance–in this case, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and TANF–received an average payout of $19,110,  however,  the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has reported most recently that the average expenditures for families receiving assistance to be $36,398. This number includes the cost of healthcare and food for which these families are already receiving government assistance.

7. Myth: Poverty is a minority problem.

Fact: In its most recent study, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the largest group of Americans living in poverty were white, numbering more than 26.4 million in 2017. However, poverty occurs at a much higher rate among people of color in the U.S. (21.2% among Black Americans, and 18.3% among Hispanic Americans) than it does among White Americans (10.7%).

8. Myth: Most of the homeless and those living in poverty are single men.

Fact: According to the 2015 Wilder study the homeless population in Minnesota included 1,542 families, including at least 3,700 children homeless with their families on any particular night, 47% of whom are age 5 or younger. In regards to poverty, recent research by the U.S. Census Bureau found that poverty occurs at a higher rate among women than it does among men (13.6% vs. 11%).

9. Myth: People wouldn’t have to live in poverty if they would be willing to work.

Fact: Despite the record low unemployment rate and there being more jobs than workers to fill them, CBS News Moneywatch released a story  in June 2018 about a report detailing a troubling reality about wages in the U.S. The report, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, discovered that, nationally, someone would have to earn at least $17.90/hour in order to rent a modest one-bedroom apartment, or $22.10/hour to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Additionally, CBS also reported that renters across the U.S. earn an average of $16.88/hour–well below what the report

10.Myth: There’s nothing I can do to help people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Fact: There’s nothing further from the truth. You can make a difference by volunteering, donating & more. Find out how.


Interested in learning more about the issues? Follow these links!

Food Insecurity, Homelessness & Poverty (U.S.)

Food Insecurity, Homelessness & Poverty  (Minnesota)