Poverty in America is not invisible. We see it, and then we look away. Our denial runs deep. It is the only way to explain a basic fact about the United States: in the world’s largest economy, the majority of us will experience poverty. According to Mark Rank’s groundbreaking life-course research, 51 percent of Americans will spend at least a year below the poverty line between the ages of 20 and 65. Two-thirds of them will access a means-tested public benefit: TANF, General Assistance, Supplemental Security Income, Housing Assistance, SNAP, or Medicaid. 1 And yet we pretend that poverty is a puzzling aberration that happens only to a tiny minority of pathological people.
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