American RadioWorks producer Laurie Stern has been reporting on poverty and the economic downturn. Here’s a recent observation from her:
Lately I’ve been getting to know people in Muncie, Indiana and Eagle Butte, South Dakota. At first glance, the places have little in common. Muncie has a proud, if receding, blue collar history and an up-and- coming university. Eagle Butte anchors the Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux reservation: more than a million acres of rolling ranch land with 10,000 people and 90,000 cattle.
There is significant poverty in both places, and people are coping in similar ways. As jobs dwindle, families combine to share money that comes in through wages, government assistance or charitable donations. Adult siblings move in with each other; grown children move home, elderly aunts and uncles are invited to share a room, and pay rent if they can. You can always double up with a relative, share some food, a vehicle, or get a loan when you’re desperate for cash.
In Eagle Butte and Muncie, the family remains the safety net to count on.
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