Five Erroneous Assumptions We All Make about the Poor

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There are more myths than facts about poverty and the poor in America, which is why John Hope Bryant's new book challenges us to think and act differently by seeing the poor as the key to a stronger economy for all.

Here are just five of the most common errors of assumption made about the poor:

False Assumption #1: Black fathers who are not present in their children's upbringing contribute to delinquency and crime which lead to poverty in minority communities.

The Truth: This is an example where racial social stereotypes do the most damage, but the facts don't back them up. According to reports by the US Department of Health and Human Services, among men who don't live with their children, Black fathers are statistically more likely than White or Hispanic fathers to have a daily presence in their children's lives.

False Assumption #2: Handouts to the poor are bankrupting the US economy.

The Truth: During the elections, many candidates argued that nearly half of American households receive government benefits but recent research by the National Poverty Center shows that a declining proportion of these benefits go to the poor, and most of what goes to the poor goes in form of in-kind benefits than cash. In any case, the Center on Budget and Policy Studies confirmed in its research that total welfare funding was 0.47% of the federal budget -- not exactly enough to bankrupt a national economy.

False Assumption #3: Poor people make stupid decisions that bring these problems on themselves.

The Truth: As countless accounts and reports have confirmed, poor people make the sorts of decisions that would most likely serve them the best in their current environment. Poverty is seen by the poor as a permanent state (they will never not be poor, in other words) and so all decisions are based on short-term gains and not long-term outcomes. Such decisions are easy for us to label as foolish, but then again, we have the luxury of hope and optimism for the long-term.

False Assumption #4: Panhandlers and the homeless are mostly lazy alcoholics and drug abusers who prefer not to work because they can get rich from the charity of others. And they prefer living on the streets.

The Truth: Myths such as this one are perpetrated at all levels. FOX News's John Stossel himself aired a now-notorious segment where he inaccurately claimed that some homeless people can make up to $80,000 a year tax-free just from panhandling. It didn't take long for scientific surveys to disprove this nonsense by presenting research that showed that on average, a panhandler made $25 a day and despite what others think, over 90% didn't spend their earnings on liquor and drugs. Also, just 3% of homeless people actually indicated they would prefer to be on the streets.

False Assumption #5: We are winning the war on poverty!

The Truth: We're not. Recent research by the National Women's Law Center indicates that the number of households with children living on less than $2 a day per person has grown 160% since 1996.  Over 1.65 million families fit into this category in 2011 and the number is thought to have grown significantly since then.


Five Questions No One Thinks to Ask Themselves About Their Boss

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In his latest book, Steve Arneson provides a guide to getting into your boss's mind to see what his or her motivations and goals are. Arneson does this by asking you to explore and answer fifteen crucial questions. Some of these questions are very sensible and practical while others seem so obvious that you'll wonder why you never thought of asking yourself these before. Here are just five questions that no one thinks to ask themselves to really understand their boss (but really should):

1. What is my boss worried about?
Bosses often have to project a level of confidence and authority that reflects a very optimistic and worry-free persona, and many employees are often inclined to believe that is really how their boss is. But like all of us, bosses have worries and concerns. Recognizing those worries is a crucial first step to understanding your boss's motivations and goals.

2. What is my boss's preferred management style?
Management trends come and go and many bosses at all levels are often expected to follow a particular style or technique or feel that they should. The problem is that if a particular style is not natural to him or her, it's as taxing for the boss to employ it as it is for the employee to work with it. By figuring out your boss's preferred management style, you make it easier for him or her to work with you by meeting your boss on their turf. And what's easier for them is by default easier for you.

3. What is my boss's relationship like with his or her boss?
It's a question that's rarely asked. We all have bosses, and though the chain of command only goes up a level at a time, your boss is just as accountable to a higher-level boss as you are to him or her. Studying the relationship between your boss and your boss's boss gives you insight into how they see themselves and how they relate to others whom they are accountable to, thereby providing you with a blueprint for your own relationship.

4. What behaviors does my boss reward?
This is yet another way to verify your boss's preferences and management style. Whether they are aware of it or not (and often they are not), bosses will positively reinforce and reward those behaviors they like. People assume a boss's behavior matches with what he or she most wants from others, but this is not always so. A very mild-mannered boss may reward aggressive go-getters, while brusque and curt bosses may think highly of personable and relatable individuals. Find out what your boss rewards and  you'll know what he or she wants from you.

5. How does my boss represent me to others?
How your boss talks to you may not be how he or she talks about you to others, and this can be a good or bad thing depending on your boss's motivations and relationship style. We've all encountered situations where we found out that our boss was praising us to his or her other colleagues and were surprised because we weren't even sure that the boss liked us. In more unfortunate circumstances, the opposite can also be true. Whether intentional or not, how your boss interacts with you may not always be an accurate indicator of what he or she thinks of your abilities, but how your boss speaks about you to others is very much so.