4 Infuriating Examples of Poverty Shaming

With rising income inequality in the United States and elsewhere, it baffles the mind that some people actually seem to celebrate unearned privilege.

In cases of poverty shaming, advantaged individuals try to make those with lower incomes feel bad about themselves for not having a lot of money. Here are four of the most egregious recent examples:

1. Wealthy high school students and $2,000 coats

A school in England had to implement a ban to prevent wealthier students from flaunting two brands of winter coat that are famously expensive. Well-off students from this school had begun engaging in cliquey behavior, including pushing their parents to buy them brands of outerwear whose labels serve as ostentatious displays of wealth.

Those in cooler climates — any Minnesotans reading? — may be surprised to find that such a practical and prosaic item would be used as a way to make poor students feel left out.

Because only a couple of brands are highly expensive, this makes for an easy way to distinguishing the haves from the have-nots. And it’s of the reasons some schools feel that school uniform policies are a good idea.

2. No money, no school lunch

Sometimes the school itself is the problem. While many school districts provide free or reduced lunch for students in need, this isn’t universal. And the thought of a small child being denied food, as well as being called out publicly for lacking money, is upsetting to say the least.

However, even when students are provided with a free lunch, they can be outed to their classmates. To solve this problem in a more comprehensive way, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking districts to come up with better solutions. The upsetting reality is that solutions already exist, but some schools, districts or states just aren’t implementing them.

Might this be related to the larger problem of unequal education funding across the country?

3. Ocasio-Cortez and the class presumptions of Congress

New member of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stands out for a lot of reasons. As a woman of color, she is part of a hugely more diverse wave of newcomers to the House — Democratic, that is, as the Republicans still look like a 1950s board of directors for Evil Incorporated. She’s also part of a growing progressive wing of the Democratic party, and she’s the youngest female member of Congress. And, oh yeah, she’s not rich.

Ocasio-Cortez has been slammed, teased and condescended to by pundits and politicians on the right for everything from her clothing to the financial challenge of living in D.C. while awaiting that first paycheck.

The biggest concern here is the assumption that a person who is not wealthy does not belong in Congress. Members of Congress represent the people of their districts, so what does it say when the very rich imply working- and middle-class people shouldn’t be elected representatives?

It suggests a very undemocratic — indeed, oligarchical — worldview that this country is for the privileged few rather than the 99 percent who actually keep it running day after day. Low-income Republican voters: Consider that for a minute.

4. The otherness of food stamps

To non-Americans, the Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Program seems very strange. Instead of providing all manner of tax deductibles and social programs like other wealthy countries do, the working poor in the U.S. are given “I am poor” coupons — food stamps — to supplement their grocery shopping.

Why not simply a check? Between food stamps, segregated subsidized housing neighborhoods and school lunch programs it seems impossible to avoid being labelled poor in the U.S. instead of just being treated like everyone else.

The idea that income defines someone is one of the reasons it can be so hard to escape poverty.

Photo credit: Getty Images

52 comments

Kevin B
Kevin B28 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Mary B
Mary B1 months ago

I don't remember where I read it but it goes like this " How can it be that only 2600 people can control the vast majority of wealth in this country but 450,000,000 are lazy bums ?"

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Thomas M
Thomas M1 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Mollie Wilson-Milesi

We need to fight the long-embedded stereotype that poverty is the individual's fault, somehow due to moral weakness. Society exists to protect and nurture its most vulnerable members. We can all be vulnerable at some point during our lives and we all need to support those who are vulnerable today.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M2 months ago

Thanks.

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Sherri S
Sherri S2 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h2 months ago

tyfs

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danii p
danii p2 months ago

Thanks

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danii p
danii p2 months ago

Thanks

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