The Cost of Less Expensive Luxuries and More Expensive Necessities

In the Spotlight
Some individuals and families living in poverty in the United States may be able acquire certain material goods that previous generations found completely out of reach. Despite having access to material items like low cost televisions and mobile phones, impoverished Americans are still struggling in a severely unequal society.

Today, the costs of college, health care, child care, housing, and food have soared while material items such as toys and electronics have dropped significantly. As toys are getting cheaper, living in America is getting harder.McSilverType3
The decrease in the prices of material goods has been heavily affected by global economic trends. The industrial markets that produce a number of American material goods have largely been relocated outside of the U.S. to allow for businesses to save on labor costs. This continuing trend limits the availability of industrial jobs that for generations have supported the economic prosperity and mobility of the American middle and working classes.


Despite government efforts to tackle economic inequality through financial assistance programs, the increase in costs of living and decrease in costs of material items reminds us of the trade-offs of cheaper goods with fewer jobs creating those goods. Those living in or near poverty have increasingly limited access to education and jobs, hindering their ability to escape the poverty that stifles their and their children’s chances of meeting even their most basic needs and achieving economic upward mobility.

Direct Service Implications

While living in America may mean you have a refrigerator, it does not mean you have food to keep cold. For providers, working on a micro level fighting poverty comes with combating its impacts on the front lines. For individuals and families struggling to secure work, healthy food and access to health care, providers must be able to navigate the complicated resources that may be available to them.

To gather better knowledge of social services designed to aid those in need, providers and individuals can explore their state’s social service departments through their state government website. In addition, Ilaina Edison, Senior Vice President at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, has written eloquently about the intersection of providers empowering clients while helping them navigate social benefit systems.


Courtesy of McSilver Institute of Poverty Policy and Research who has kindly given SJS permission to syndicate this piece.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the Policy News Briefs are not necessarily the views of the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research or NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. If you have comments or suggestions about this service, contact us at


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