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  1. Opinion

Column: Rich think poor have it easy

People wait in line at a food-distribution site in St. Petersburg in 2011. The majority of the most financially secure people in the United States believe the poor have it easy, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.
People wait in line at a food-distribution site in St. Petersburg in 2011. The majority of the most financially secure people in the United States believe the poor have it easy, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.
Published Jan. 10, 2015

WASHINGTON — There is little empathy at the top. Most of America's richest think poor people have it easy in this country, according to a new report released by the Pew Research Center. The center surveyed a nationally representative group of people this past fall, and found that the majority of the country's most financially secure citizens (54 percent at the very top, and 57 percent just below) believe the "poor have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return." America's least financially secure vehemently disagree — nearly 70 percent say the poor have hard lives because the benefits "don't go far enough." Nationally, the population is almost evenly split.

A quarter of the country feels the leading reason for inequality is that the poor don't work hard enough. But to say the poor have it easy is to ignore how serious their struggle is compared to the rest of the population.

The poor are much less likely to have health insurance, much more likely to be the victims of crimes. They don't get the same level of education or have the same food options. Inequality, as the Washington Post's Matt O'Brien wrote, "starts in the crib," and it plays out even in what babies of different socioeconomic backgrounds are fed.

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