Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another read about the poor in yesterday's New York Times was this one about the impact of high gas prices on rural poor in America. Rarely does anyone position the price of gas relative to people's ability to pay for it, but this article does. People in Holmes County, Mississippi spend about 13% of their after-tax income on gas, which is a lot considering the median income is about $1500. What was somewhat underhanded of the Times is that they chose one of the absolute poorest places in the United States: mostly black Holmes County has a median household income of about $18,000, making it the 41st poorest county in the country, and that includes many native reservations.

Still, the point is evident, though not made, that America is built so bizarrely that people travel upwards of 100 km one way to a menial job. That's like coming from Waterloo to Toronto to work at a Starbucks. Granted, the need to travel for work is more acute in rural areas because of low population densities and a lack of jobs (41% of Holmes County lives in poverty), but I can't quite understand why people from one poor place travel 50-100 km to a job in another poor place instead of just moving there. The decision to live in one place and work far away is really a luxury, one that the poorest in America apparently can't afford, and more of us won't be able to afford in the future.

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