Walk In the Shoes of the Working Poor
MSNBC's Today had a recent article that took a real-life look at current job market options (or lack thereof) and poverty in the U.S. It centered around a role-playing computer game called "Spent" that was developed by MeKinney and Urban Ministries from Durham, North Carolina. This game allows the player to walk in the shoes of someone with a family of four who is living beneath the official poverty level and trying to make financial ends meet.
Playing the game was very eye-opening for me. In the beginning I was required to pick an occupation from three choices. Then, given my income choice, I was given two or three expense options for each situation. With my expense choices, I progressed through the game and was shown the facts and financial consequences of my actions. I really was experiencing the daily and monthly financial dilemmas of the working person I picked.
For example, the employment choices were restaurant server at $2.15 per hour plus tips (and it wasn't a high-end restaurant), a warehouse worker at $9 an hour, or a temp with a varying wage per hour. I chose to be a warehouse worker although it probably wasn't realistic for me to assume I could actually do the heavy lifting.
Then came the expense options. Even though I was given two choices for each segment, neither one was optimal and as I made each pick my balance went down accordingly. One dilemma was whether to give my child money for lunch or make him or her get lunch for free using the subsidized program. After I made my choice, facts popped up that gave the possible consequences. And actually some of my earlier choices ended up coming back to haunt me financially as the game went on.
Many people in the cities and the suburbs are trying to survive, and making tough choices every day. If you want to take a walk in their shoes, go to Playspent.org and see how you fare.