Well, there is more bad news for beleaguered John “Two Americas” Edwards: the majority of poor people in this country now enjoy a manner of living and even many of the household appliances associated with a more affluent way of life than you might have thought. 

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has a new study out that indicates that the media image of the poor is distorted. Noting that the Census Bureau says that 43 million Americans-one in seven of us-live in poverty, Rector has some surprising facts about the poor:

The most recent government data show that more than half of the families defined as poor by the Census Bureau have a computer in the home. More than three of every four poor families have air conditioning, almost two-thirds have cable or satellite television, and 92 percent have microwaves.

How poor are America’s poor? The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR, and a DVD player. One-third have a wide-screen, plasma, or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video-game system such as Xbox or PlayStation….

[T]he broad array of modern conveniences in the homes of the poor is the result of many decades of steady improvement in their living standards.

Year by year, the poor tend to be better off.

There is more good news: only 1 in 70 poor people are homeless and in the course of a year, only 1 child in 67 experiences hunger because of poverty.

This is not to say that there isn’t real deprivation in our country. While the majority of those designated as poor may have microwaves and cable television, a small number at the opposite end of the spectrum have no telephone and endure a living situation that anybody would recognize as poverty.

Why does Rector’s research matter?

If we as a nation are ever to have a sound anti-poverty policy, it must be based on accurate information on the extent, severity, and causes of actual deprivation. Exaggeration and misinformation will benefit neither society, the taxpayer, nor the poor.