Because people act like wearing grungy clothes from a thrift shop and sleeping on friends couches and working crappy service jobs is a lifestyle choice, rather than a necessary condition of this terrible economy. And then wants to kick people while they are down.
I think about this all the time. The last time I purchased an item of clothing new was for a job interview over two years ago (and I wore my regular thrift items for the first round interview, and when my now boss called me in for the second round, she told me, "We loved you just as you are, but you're going to meet the director and he will want to see you in a suit.") Other than that, I survive on thrift shopping and hand-me-downs. Plus, wearing the same pair of pants for 5+ years. Some of my clothing has been in rotation for over a decade now. I'd rather buy/replace buttons than support such a terrible practice as child labor. It makes me think of the Triangle Shirtwaist fires, how shocking that must've been, but how, at the same time, it was happening under people's noses already. ETA: But it is a privilege to be able to wear shabby, but well-mended clothes. In my previous jobs (waitress, especially) I had to match a certain dress code to the letter. Which meant I needed a constant supply of black pants, which are hard to find used.
@stuffisthings Ah yes, totally agreed.
@stuffisthings On re-reading, I see you mean that perhaps the comparison should be between the median income of people with a Master's degree and the stipend. So, looking at the Wikipedia page for numbers on folks with advanced degrees (which is out of my area, since I mostly got my chops in this kind of data from writing grants to help NPOs that work with people in the bottom quintile), median individual income for a guy with a Master's is $61k and it's $41k for a woman. But those are also 2003, pre-recession numbers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Household_income_in_the_United_States) ETA: Looks like they sort out professional degrees too, so no lawyers in the bunch. That seems a bit more reasonable.
@stuffisthings I think she was talking about what the stipend pays, not comparing the median income for people with Master’s degrees, which includes a bunch of higher earning CS students and MBAs and a whole host of other folks. Also, what figure are you using as the median income for people with a Master’s degree? ETA: Because I like to crunch numbers, and $66, 940 seems high to me, even lumping in lawyers and other hotshots. Using this definition for poverty as a multiplier: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm (as linked by the billfold a few days ago).
@dudeascending So it depends on what your household consists of, which is why this stuff is all pretty slippery. When I lived by myself in an efficiency, then yes I would have been counted in the second quintile. Later, when I moved back in with my parents, we would all be counted together because of the definition of a household: "A household includes all the people who occupy a housing unit. (People not living in households are classified as living in group quarters.) A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live separately from any other people in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall. The occupants may be a single family, one person living alone, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated people who share living arrangements." (http://www.census.gov/acs/www/Downloads/data_documentation/SubjectDefinitions/2011_ACSSubjectDefinitions.pdf) Now that I've moved back out and my household income = my income again. Income is also one of those things that's more complicated than it seems on the face of it, because it includes a lot of stuff (like child support and the fungible value of Medicaid) beyond a person's paycheck: (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/). Maybe a better way to talk about it would be per capita income (which is around $27,915: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html) but it does actually make a huge difference if you share a space with another income earner, since housing is a huge expense (and food and utilities, etc.) and it doesn't scale up that quickly, i.e. I use about the same amount of electricity as I did when I lived at home with my folks, but now I pay for it by myself, rather than splitting it three ways.
@dudeascending It might also be because the poverty line is a number that’s well defined, which makes it a useful point of reference. $26,000 also happens to be just below the mean household income for the 2nd quintile (http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p60-243.pdf) but that’s not a fixed point of reference, although it has stayed fairly constant since the 60s. Still as a person who makes $26,000, I’m more apt to describe it as mid second quintile than 2.5 x poverty, but then again I’m usually talking to other demography nerds.
Congrats on having an awesome fellowship, Jia! I always look forward to seeing your posts, so I hope this means you'll have plenty of time to write more.
@aetataureate I just learned that those were called 'Hoover Flags' during the Depression.
@limenotapple But with hair pulled back in a 'messy' updo to indicate down-to-earthiness. @stuffisthings What? No! What is this Breaking Bad? Clearly, she falls for that dude who makes furniture on Sex & the City, because he had younger siblings and can change a diaper.