Photo Slideshow: Poverty in Today’s America

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America’s poor are, unfortunately, often out of sight and out of mind. In the tradition of groundbreaking photojournalists like Jacob Riis, Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, a group of photojournalists working today have brought their work together at to “dispel stereotypes and encourage actions that can create lasting impact in the lives of disadvantaged people.” This slideshow showcases some of their work.

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  • Marc W. Kohler

    Everyone should read Ralph Nader’s article in The Nation. It is short and not very sweet. He concludes that as a Party, the Democrats will NEVER again work to stop poverty or aid poor people in the USA. Nader estimates the 100 million Americans live at or below the poverty level. READ IT. Maybe I will post it here, Here is a follow-up article by John R. MacArthur which takes Nader’s article as a start and goes MUCH further. He points out that President Obama is not a liberal at all–that he is in the grasp of the 1%, He has many examples. You can read them at My guess is that if the KOCH Brothers can earn 600 billion dollars last year, or 3 million dollars an hour, then the gig is up. Slide shows like this one wil only make the publishers of it feel goo. Go to my Blog, and read the first three posts–that will explain all of this to you. The other entries are interesting.too, but the three first ones are the best. Please excuse the typos. I was in a hurry to get started. Oh, here is the Nader article:

  • rightdemocrat

    The New Deal and Great Society reduced poverty but did not go far enough. Now after more than 30 years of Reaganomics it is nearly impossible to reverse the course of national self-destruction. Neither party has fought for the interests of the middle class, the working class and the poor. We just get more tax cuts for the rich, subsidies to big business and more job-destroying free trade agreements. We can’t even stimulate the economy with infrastructure spending (even though the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agree on this !) in the present dysfunctional political environment. And now President Obama is willing to cut Social Security benefits by going along with a “chained CPI” promoted by Congressional Republicans. There are solutions but our political leaders refuse to even discuss most of them.

  • Kari Hope

    NADER is a friggin’ crack pot! Old news, old rhetoric, old hat.

  • Sarah Morison

    Would you rather the Republicans were still in power?

  • dee g

    he sure is. He is from my home town of Winsted, Ct. People here hate him. He has several vacant buildings left to rot, and claims he can’t do a thing..because they are owned by a corporation..

  • Former NE Kingdomer, VT

    Photo number 6: NorthEAST Kingdom, VT


    “Just a bunch of moochers. But I’m a job creator. One of them could shine my pair of $5000 shoes.” Mitt Romney.

  • Lynn Cole

    Congress has set up a system of legalized bribery for itself. Corporations and billionaires can easily spend a million dollars bribing Congress, so they get to write the laws that their toadies in Congress rubber stamp. Quid pro quo. Middle-class people have little to spare for bribes, so they have little influence. The poor have no money to spend on bribes, so they have no influence. Follow the money!

  • Katheryn Lorimor

    Some of the pictures were heartbreaking. The most startling revelation of all was the quote from the National Low Income Housing Coalition; they found that there in not a single community in America where someone making minimum wage can afford to pay fair market rent for housing…..
    Thanks for the links, Marc, I will follow up. Thank you too, Mr. Moyers for your dogged work pulling back the financial fig leaves.


    Alexis De Tocqueville wrote an analysis of the causes of the French Revolution entitled “The Old Regime and the Revolution”. Google Books has a digitized 1856 English translation online.

    I came across this statement about the tax policy: “The first condition of the tax being its imposition not on those who could afford to pay it but on those who could not afford to resist it. Government was driven into the monstrous anomaly of sparing the rich and burdening the poor.”

    Some things never change.

  • Wendi Kent

    Thank you to all of these photographers. I have no words.

  • Sona Mason

    this is too awful. how humiliating. how demoralizing. and the republicans keep beating on the poor because they’re easier to kick than the rich & powerful. Thank you Bill. We needed to see this. now we need to make it national.

  • Frank Firter

    That’s right – everyone else is to blame!

  • Frank Firter

    Those bad republicans! Those bad democrats! Let’s see – Who else can we blame? Have we blamed bush yet today?

  • Frank Firter

    Its a darn good thing we have all this free healthcare to take care of these folks! Lets have more unions! That’s what we need!

  • Suzy Samford Weber

    The last one says the man has been panhandling for almost 50 years, and I have to ask WHY? Why for 50 years?

  • Anonymous

    This kid’s got on nice shoes and clothes…, hair’s done up nicely and
    she doesn’t look like she’s missed any meals…, not a good model for
    any kind of anti-poverty effort. When I was that age, we had the added
    disadvantage of not being black so no one paid any attention to us in
    Little Rock in the late ’40s; we just had to “grin and bear it”. Why is
    it when some entity wants to illustrate “poverty” (whatever that
    actually is…), they pose some black kid…., usually looking out a
    window somewhere? Please stop trying to emulate great photographers and
    do some actual research/reporting anew.

  • Ronald F. Paxton

    Minimum wage is the minimum wage for students. Many hundreds of thousands of students have paid their own way through university working at minimum wage. You raise it and those jobs will be gone. Those students will not have the chance for a good career. You want to help with real poverty, help the tens of thousands of people dying every day from lack of food and water in less fortunate countries. They would do anything to live in what you are calling poverty here.

  • Liza-jo Pennell

    I can not believe this is an actual response. The shoes are probably donated by Red Cross and anyone can braid hair for free. It is deplorable that in this day and age, you would react to a child standing in such filth and disarray with no feeling at all except for bigotry and jealousy. You should be ashamed. I’m sure you are a Christian and I will remind you that Jesus Christ was a supporter of helping the poor, or ANYONE in need. You are also a horrible racist. I am white and I am shocked. You speak of Little Rock in the 40’s, well my dear, I am sorry you felt ignored but they still hung black people then. I hope that you get a hug today because you obviously need one and I will pray for you, that whatever inside you is so sick and sad can be healed.

  • Deana Pena

    very funny!!

  • Bradford Nelson Bray

    Proof! Please prove your point. When in our economic history in the past 60 years have jobs “disappeared” as a result of minimum wage increase??? Let me make this easy for you. Never!!! People like you continue to spread half truths and outright lies. Stop it!!! You are adding nothing to the discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Tax cuts for the rich lead to poverty. Do you people even listen to yourselves anymore? Our government spends more than any government in human history, and has more revenue than any as well. We spend 40 times more on “anti-poverty measures” now than we did in the 60s, yet poverty’s not appreciably lower. Maybe instead of whining about the rich not paying taxes, engage why anti-poverty measures haven’t worked despite decades of funding.

  • Anonymous

    Cuz Obama isn’t living like a king. Excuse me while i LOL


    Hey cuz, Obama lives like a President of the US. Can you figure out why, cuz?

  • moderator

    Hello NYPRphD and oneinsixbillion,

    Please take some time to check out our comment policy before posting again.

    Sean @ Moyers


    Hi Sean: Did I post something offensive? I don’t see it. Or was it because I responded to oneinsix… the way I did?

  • Helper

    If this bothers you (and it should), get out and join me in helping these folks. I will not shirk my responsibility by seeking that you pay more taxes to help. You and I can do a better job of helping those who need it than some inefficient government bureaucracy. It’s our responsibility, not someone else’s anyway.

  • Lin Kreuzer

    There are welfare and social services to help. Unless for some reason they refuse to accept help.

  • Thanks

    I just scrolled down and you were they only one…that didn’t make this article about politics or color. Your comment was based on the article and empathy…thumbs up

  • Daniel Werner

    This slides are a wakeup call to the politicians and programs to at least reduce poverty. Housing is a right.

  • Tom Rodgers

    I’d like to know where you found this quote.


    It’s a joke.

  • Deirdra Baldwin

    The photographs are stunning, but perhaps not as stunning as some of the comments that followed. You’d think we lived on separate planets.

  • lala

    I thought you made a strong (implicit) point Sir, particularly without having to go into the details of President Obama’s upbringing and putting himself through college. Aside from one’s political achievements, having gone to Law school may create ‘privilege’ and prestige but one certainly has to do the ‘work’ to achieve such success.

  • Madison

    Personally, I have found that checking out the eligibility and compliance requirements for the LIMITED assistance available (per state and federal websites like, http://www.hsd.state.YOUR STATE is advantageous before I make assumptions about the availability of resources to people in need… in rural areas (with limited access to service providers) as well as urban areas (where populations in need exceed availability of services)

    I was also shocked to learn (upon working for the Human Services Department) that there is indeed a federal cap
    (60 months- Total- In a lifetime) on how long one may receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families regardless of where one lives in the U.S., if one moves from state-to-state, or how many children one has. Unfortunately non-profit ‘social services’ are also fraught with incredibly high-demand, multiple barriers in continuation of services and serious lack of funding.

    I’d hate to think that people in need simply “refuse to ACCEPT help” if 1.5 MILLION = the number of children in America who go to sleep without a home each year, and 1 in 50 = an American child’s chances of experiencing homelessness in their lifetime (

    “We all do better when we all do better.”
    (Sen. Paul Wellstone)

  • Janet M. Patterson Rn

    Thank you for posting these. I work in home health care with disabled adults and children, & with every cut I wonder what’s to keep my patients and their families from falling completely off the radar.

    [ps photo 08: you want “sight”, not ‘site’, in that caption]

  • simone, florida

    I Appreciate the Story. I was homeless, after losing a good job and everything I scrubbed floors for, with a teen-ager and on the streets dawn to dusk and some nights looking for a home and a job. I can tell you first hand, the services everyone is so keen on, do not meet the needs for even one person in this nation. So thank you, it makes it worth my while when I had to stand in line of 200 for one of six beds for the night and roaches crawling on me as I slept, and a line of over 500 for leftover soup.

  • Diane Osgood

    Can you tell me you know the personal story of everyone pictured here? The little girls clothes may have come from an organization that distributes free clothing. Others may suffer from depression or a mental illness. How about the homeless veteran that may be suffering from untreated Post Traumatic Disorder? What about those who have lost their job or have the expense of a major illness hanging over their heads? In the blink of an eye a person’s life can be turned upside down through no fault of their own. Who are we to judge a person solely based on a picture? Whatever happened to having empathy and compassion for our fellow man? It seems most people are only looking out for their own personal well being . How much does a rich person need to “survive” in this world? When I look at these pictures the first thing that came to mind was, “But for the grace of God go I.” Many of you may think that I am naive but at least I can try to think what it may be like walking in the shoes or shadow of my fellow human being.

  • Penny

    Oh… that right ? In other words a wage increase here, and jobs ‘never’ go over seas. I don’t think your lying, or spreading half truths. Your just not to bright.

  • Max Johnson

    staged. our poor people have flat screens, cars, phones, food, decent places to live. We need to give our poor a tour of countries that are REALLY poor.

  • Anonymous

    I am in the same line of work, and feel equally fearful of those of us who do the caregiving. We serve the needs of the powerful by making them feel “compassionate” because we care for those who unarguably cannot work. But we caregivers typically make poverty wages and are treated like expendable trash, despite the importance of having stable and positive staff to care for the disabled.. Tragic for all.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe because he is uneducated, perhaps ill, perhaps has a substance abuse issue, perhaps he had responsibilities as a young man that prevented him from getting an education, perhaps he has a disability, perhaps he has limited abilities that don’t quite qualify him as “disabled” and eligible for federal disability benefits, etc., etc., etc. Your assumptions, coupled with you judgmental complaisance, are truly repulsive. Maybe you might like to visit a homeless shelter and talk to human beings who could be you under different circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t you look in the mirror to see who is to blame. People who have no compassion, who prefer to judge others rather than to help them, who are unable to imagine what it might be like when everything in your life (color, family income, address, school, etc.) is “wrong.”

  • Noena Franz

    There are some people who feel that these photos are staged, because they can’t confront that this level of poverty exists, or they just don’t care that it does. That leaves the rest of us to help in any way that we can. I give as much as I can to the food bank, even though I am on a fixed income.

  • Nick Wilson

    You’re not too bright either.

  • Anonymous

    i would like to think that you are kidding. But I really think that you are either ignorant or heartless.

  • Lance A. Lewin

    Diane, I agree whole heartily with your points. As a society, we instinctively react and less time is taken to conjure other possibilities or explanations. There is so much going on in these photographs and a quick study is unfair. A deep subject, indeed, and worthy of intense focus, thought and analysis. Kind regards, Lance A. Lewin – Atlanta USA

  • JonThomas

    Sorry, but it’s not a binary universe. It is not “instead-of,” nor is it ‘either/or.’ That false dichotomy is exactly the type of misdirect being fostered on the general public as a means to direct the national conversation and manipulate the agenda.

    Whining (and then hopefully acting toward a resolution to the problem) about ‘the rich not paying taxes,’ and ‘engaging why anti-poverty measures haven’t worked despite decades of funding,’ are both valid pursuits and neither needs to be done as if it is at odds with the other.

    It’s no secret why anti-poverty efforts haven’t fully succeeded, AND the wealthier are the very ones who have, and continue to, benefit from the system as it is structured. As beneficiaries, they are the very ones who SHOULD carry the weight.

  • Anonymous

    You should look at the provided links.

  • Anonymous

    You are sickening.

  • donna

    You should have my job for a day. You have no idea what you are talking about. God bless you and I hope the universe allows you to remain in Fantasyland.

  • Khang Lý

    That’s the way those people has chosen to live with. We should respect them and don’t call them POOR!