Poverty is a costly affair that predisposes individuals to less ideal scenarios that further exacerbates their situation. According to DeNeen L. Brown’s article “The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay More”, she explains how being poor makes an individual vulnerable to exorbitant fees and prices. While those who live below the poverty line have full understanding of such a conundrum, those living above it have no idea. The economics of poverty deprives poor people of the conveniences of life, and they tend to substitute spending money with wasting time. At the heart of the argument, Brown explains that poverty compels people to choose saving money over time, expensive apartments over cheaper mortgages, expensive food stores, and forces people into depression.
Since poor people prefer to save money, they end up paying for that by wasting time. Time and money are inextricably linked concepts, and that means people have to make a choice on which one they have to save. Inevitably, poor people are forced to save the little money they have in exchange for time. A prime example of such exchange is that the poor are unable to afford a car and are forced to waste a lot of time looking for alternative means of transport to work. While the bus is scheduled for regular pickups every 10 or 15 minutes, it ends up taking 30 minutes and this exemplifies the idea that “when you are poor, you wait” (Brown, 2009). Subsequently, a journey that would have taken 10 minutes on a personal car takes an hour on the bus. In such a scenario, the poor have been forced to surrender more time on the bus as they cannot afford the convenience of a personal car. Ultimately, the exchange of time to save money extends to all facets of life.
Besides being forced to exchange time for money, poverty also forces individuals into crammed up and expensive housing options. Comparatively, a mortgage for a house is cheaper than a rented apartment in the longer term. On one hand, the rich are able to access mortgages as they are in good books with creditors. On the other hand, poor people invest in substandard and expensive apartments yet “they say houses are better, cheaper” (Brown, 2009). However, without a down payment, such houses are a preserve only for the rich. Poor people would rather have a mortgage rather than pay for an apartment as the latter’s prices is always going up. According to Brown, neighbourhoods with cheaper housing are insecure as people living there will rob or kill you. Therefore, poverty robs people the joy of decent housing while simultaneously forcing them to pay more in the form of rent.
Unlike the middle class, poor people are always forced to spend more on basic commodities such as food. Food suppliers and supermarkets that sell food items at relatively cheaper prices are usually located far away from poor people’s neighbourhoods. In order to get to such food stores, they have to incur a transportation cost which appears as an unnecessary inconvenience. To avoid the transportation expense, they opt to acquire their groceries from a corner store. Inevitably, food items are usually priced here at such corner stores. Expert economists attribute such increase in prices to higher costs of doing business in such neighbourhoods. From the above argument, poverty is a precursor to increased food prices due to additional costs of access and costs of doing business.
Lastly, poverty piles upon people unseen costs of depression. Unlike the rich or middle class, the poor have higher levels of depression. However, research is yet to establish whether poverty leads to depression or vice versa. Either way, the collective costs of poverty are linked to depression. One explanation is that the social costs of being poor – such as inability to afford proper schooling, housing, medication, and other basic commodities – deprives a person of happiness. For a poor person, the hassle of getting things done on time and making more money act as accelerators of mental breakdown. Brown (2009) reckons that while there are questions as to the cause and effect relationship between depression and poverty, there are no questions that the two have a positive correlation.
In summary, Brown’s article discusses the plight of the poor and the accompanying costs of poverty. Living below the poverty line makes people vulnerable to predation by societal dynamics and institutions that prey on their poverty. Similarly, poverty places other unnecessary costs on the livelihood of an individual, and these are often exacerbated in the process of attempting to break loose from its chains. Unlike the rich, the poor have to make decisions on whether they can afford to lose money or time. More often than not, exchanging time for money is the natural outcome and this transcends all facets of life such as transportation to work, the choice of school, the nature of housing, and the price of foodstuffs. The collective financial and social costs of poverty inflate the overall costs of life.
Brown, D. L. (2009). The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay More. The Washington Post. Web.