Living in near poverty in the Washington D.C. suburbs

The number of poor people in the suburbs is growing and the Washington Post takes a look at those just above the poverty line in the suburbs of Washington D.C.:

These are the folks hovering above the poverty line, just a few digits away from the cliff that drops them into the world of people we fret over and create government programs for.Poverty, in most of the cases we hear it discussed, means a household income of less than $23,000 for a family of four. But what if you make $25,000, $30,000 or even $40,000? Is that easy street?…

From 2010 to 2011, poverty rates jumped in Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William counties, the land of McMansions, gated communities and shiny, big-box stores.

The suburbs were built to accommodate prosperity and consumption, a life of big lawns, big cars and big dreams. It is a precipice so high that the drop — a missed mortgage that turns into a foreclosure, a repossessed car that results in a lost job — is dizzying.

Step into any thrift store and the pain is on display, right along with the used cake platters, tea sets and cocktail dresses nobody needs anymore.

A few thoughts on the full story:

1. The columnist uses an interesting term for this group living just above the poverty line: the pre-poor. Does this imply that they are inevitably on a path to poverty or could they also move upward out of this group with a new job or opportunity?

2. The story focuses primarily on thrift stores but assumedly there are other places where the pre-poor shop and gather? In other words, this sounds like an easy entree into this segment of the American populace but doesn’t give us much of the complex story of their lives.

3. Another angle on this would be to look at the social services available to those just above poverty. Are there local charities, religious organizations, and civic groups trying to help? Are these suburbs, places built for prosperity and yet seeing growing need for social services, able to help?

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