The Madeleine Brand Show for September 15, 2011

Living in poverty: what can you really afford?

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

People wait in line outside of St. Francis Center for the opening of the soup kitchen on September 13, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.

The number of people below the poverty line is at a 50-year high in America, according to new Census figures. The national rate rose to 15.1 percent in 2010. Yet the Census Bureau isn't the only organization with a new study out. The Heritage Foundation has issued its own report, which explores responses to some other Census questions, and finds that 42 percent of people living in poverty own a home. Half own a personal computer. And half of poor families with kids own an X-box or other gaming system. Only 4 percent said they had trouble feeding their children during the year. Yet, some economists say these aren't the barometers that show real quality of life. How extreme is poverty in America? We hear dueling perspectives from co-author of the Heritage report, Robert Rector and Shawn Fremstad at the Center for Economic Policy Research.


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