Saturday, April 22, 2017

Strong endorsement of $2 a Day

This student reflects on what $2.00 a Day explained about people trying to stay alive when they are desperately poor.  

$2.00 a Day has been the most exciting textbook I have ever read in all my years of schooling. Never would I have imagined that an assigned reading could be so enjoyable. This book really touched a nerve in me and I found myself relating to several of the characters in the book. I most closely related to the story of Tabitha and her small town Delta community. 
As I was reading about the Delta I found myself picturing my own small, hometown of Carthage, IL. Although Carthage itself as the county seat is by no means as poor, and devastated by poverty as the Delta many of the small villages that outline Carthage are filled with broken down homes and poor, lower class families live desolated lives. The part in the book where it described the local bar ran by Mr. and Mrs. Salvatore reminded me exactly of the Pink Tavern in one of the small villages near me. 
In class we briefly touched on the morals of the kinds of people who hang around places like these local bars. We talked about the morals of the women who sell themselves in order to pay their own bills. All of this is something that my own community struggles with. It is easy for people to judge them and say I would never do that but nobody really knows what they would do in order to survive until they are in that position. 
In the case of Tabitha and her gym teacher she knew it was wrong to trade sexual favors for food; however, the pros outweighed the cons. Tabitha is not a bad person, she is just a victim of her environment.  I cannot even begin to imagine living the life that Tabitha does. She is an inspiration to not only her brothers and sisters but to anyone who falls into hard times. Her perseverance is contagious. 
I also applaud the creativity of Martha who lives in the Delta and runs a little store out of her home. She manages to scrape by a living by using whatever means possible to her. Some people would say she handles her poverty better than Tabitha did because she has managed to stay out of other men’s beds but even Martha is living off the shadow economy.  
Just like in the Delta there are areas where I am from that live off the shadow economy. People who do odd jobs for cash such as working on cars or catering meals. Those who supply certain “delicacies” like drugs and alcohol to minors or those who have no means of getting it themselves.  This kind of economy floods rural areas where people feel so far from the rest of society that they have to make up their own. It is sad to witness, but it would be far worse to witness people dying because of their poverty. 

Hancock County is a low-cost low-wage sort of place.  In 2015 the median income was $48,213 in Hancock County compared to $59,590 for the state of Illinois, but the high incomes are mostly earned in Cook County and the Collar Counties, so for downstate Illinois the household income wasn’t especially low.  The child poverty rate in 2015 was 19%, about the same as Illinois, but the overall poverty rate of 12.7% was actually lower than the state average of 13.6%. The number of persons in poverty was estimated as 2,319 (all this information is mostly from Census data collected by the Heartland Alliance).  I’ve visited your county to see the historical site at Nauvoo and the Mississippi River Sand Hills, but I can’t remember ever passing through Carthage. Let’s compare your hometown and county with Bolivar County, a similar county along the same Mississippi River, located down in Mississippi, (Bolivar County has about 34,000 residents while your Hancock County has slightly less than 19,000, so it’s a much larger, although both counties are small and rural, and neither has any Interstate Freeway passing through). 

Bolivar County is proud of having 3,000 jobs in manufacturing and 25 manufacturing industries located in the county, but people aren’t getting paid much.  In 2015 the median household income was $27,585 in Bolivar County compared to $39,665 for the state of Mississippi, so it is a place of poverty and low wages, remarkable for deprivation that is relatively extreme even for Mississippi.  The child poverty rate in 2015 was 26% for children under 12 years old, but only 12% for children 12 to 17. The overall poverty rate of 37.1% was higher than the Mississippi state average of 22%. The binge drinking rates for males in 2012 were about 22.6%, unremarkable for Mississippi.  Life expectancy for males at birth was only 67.4 years (!), and that is low—very low. 

From now on, when you see statistics like these, you know that they will imply that people like Tabitha and Martha (from Two Dollars A Day) must be enduring those sorts of life situations. You’ve seen the poverty in your own community, and Carthage, Illinois is fairly average for the United States. 

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