Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Barbara Ehrenreich has a blog!

Via Dr. Bitch, I learned today that Barbara (Nickel and Dimed) Ehrenreich has a blog.

Once there, I discover that Ehrenreich's most recent post explores the high cost of being poor, a subject I was just discussing with Meowkaat by e-mail a few days ago. Ehrenreich writes:

A new study from the Brookings Institute documents the “ghetto tax,” or higher cost of living in low-income urban neighborhoods. It comes at you from every direction, from food prices to auto insurance. A few examples from this study, by Matt Fellowes, that covered 12 American cities:

Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts, which can be expensive for those with low balances, and so they tend to cash their pay checks at check-cashing businesses, which in the cities surveyed, charged $5 to $50 for a $500 check.
Nationwide, low-income car buyers, defined as people earning less than $30,000 a year, pay two percentage points more for a car loan than more affluent buyers.
Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance. In New York, Baltimore and Hartford, they pay an average $400 more a year to insure the exact same car and driver risk than wealthier drivers.
Poorer people pay an average of one percentage point more in mortgage interest.
They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses. In Wisconsin, the study reports, a $200 rent-to-own TV set can cost $700 with the interest included.
They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive, and lower quality offerings, of small grocery and convenience stores.

I would be unfairly poormouthing (ha!) to describe myself as poor today, but I had a lot of rough years in the not-distant past, and I continue to pay the premium for my past inability to keep up.

My Sears account charges an interest rate of almost 29%. I am throwing every extra dollar I have at it and expect to pay it off by the end of 2007. Still...

Although I've been a Nationwide customer for 15 or more years, they have demoted me to their off-brand auto insurance based on my credit report. I do not qualify for a multi-policy discount (they carry my homeowner's insurance, too) and I pay a rather high rate for an old (96) vehicle with fairly minimal coverage. I should add that I've never had an accident or a moving violation (had a few burned-out lights, though) and I've never filed a claim. (In fairness to Nationwide, they're going to look at my account next month when it's up for renewal, but I'm not optimistic.)

And there are other stories from my past, not worth going into right now.

Except for being a day late on my Capital One Visa in February when my grandmother died and I lost track of the day of the month, I have not made a late payment to anyone in four years. In fact, I may be one of the few people around who enjoys paying my bills -- because I can. But today, barely in the middle class, I still "pay" dearly for having once been a poor chick.


Madame X said...

Thanks for the tip! I didn't realize she had a blog, though I suppose pretty much every author does now... but that was an interesting article.

Bitty said...

It's kinda nice to get Ehrenreich for free, too!

Meowkaat said...

So basically, we poor people are actually a great business. I knew we were good for something! Let's see, my fridge, my couches, and my washing machine were all pruchased thru rent-a-center, and the folks at Money Tree know me by my first name. My goal is to someday be you, Bitty, able to leap small bills with a single bound.