Reader’s Forum: Bronx Community College Students react to $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America


Dr. Rafael Mendez is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Psychology at Bronx Community College.  He is on the faculty at the Eastside Institute for Short-term and Group Therapy and is a senior clinician of the Social Therapy Group. He is also a founding and national board member of the All Stars Project, Inc.

Dr. Mendez invited his students to participate in Politics for the People, to read a chapter or two from $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America and to share their thoughts with us here and then join our conference call on Sunday, December 3rd.

In today’s Reader’s Forum, we have comments from 13 students


Tiffany Guzman is currently taking Abnormal Psychology at Bronx Community College. She read Chapter Three: A Room of One’s Own

My thoughts on this chapter is that we as a society are not doing enough to help those who are living in poverty. Many people in America cannot afford housing leaving them to to do their best to try to get into a shelter that is usually at full capacity, move in with family members or friends and some might have no choice but to live in the streets. Society has been going through a crisis of housing instability for well over a decade and it does not seem to be getting any better. The causes for this crisis is that the cost of housing is at an all-time high and wages are too low to pay one’s rent. Society has tried to help those who have lost their home but it’s very difficult to get housing assistance due to the wait lists being incredible long for housing and section 8, section 8 is also closed as a result of the high volume of applicants, and there are also not enough units available. The effects of this crisis are abominable it can lead to these vulnerable people to experience physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, also stress, and sickness due to living in uninhabitable condition all because they have no home. I believe that we have to do more and provide more public assistance program to help find all those in need housing because everyone deserves to have a roof over their head. Society should guarantee housing to all its citizens because it helps support their basic need.


Delmary Ortiz, who is taking “Life Span Development” shared the following post:

My thoughts on the readings made me look deeply into the situations that hit close to home with either friends, family even neighbors going through similar situations. As a parent as Jennifer is to Kaitlin and Cole, her biggest concern was safety which is to most parents. It saddens me to find out that a family member had molested Kaitlin. You would think your kids would be safe around people you call family but it is not always the case. I’m currently taking Human Service to become a social worker soon. I would love to assist families in finding services that can better assist their situations.

I am a NYCHA resident and have been for the past 3 years. You can say after readings these stories that I was lucky only being on the waiting list for 3 years. When I applied for housing, section 8 was currently opened but I was not informed of what that was. We live in a world that is every man for themselves. For this reason, I want to become a social worker to help the community develop a strong stable hub so, that they can be knowledgeable in what is offered for the situations they might be facing. You get discourage to even get help because the people helping you have such a discouraging attitude.

My question to you is how can we move forward, when the systems that are built to help you sustain stability are failing?


Kauri Moronta is taking the Psychology of Infancy and Childhood.

We see people living in poverty all around the country.  In the book “$2 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing” it states that low-income families are “eating up” far more than they can afford. We need money to eat, for clothing and other necessities.   It says that 30 percent of income is spent on housing which is a “cost burden”.  I can apply this theory to myself and my family.  The rent in my house is about one third of my mother’s income, therefore we need government support.  This is the case in households living in poverty.


Kristiana Brooks shares,

I thought the stories in this chapter were extremely sad but it was not surprising to me. These type of stories have become the norms in today’s society and culture. It continues to be an ongoing cycle of struggling families trying to make ends meet, bending backwards to try and make it to the top but the system is not made for them to succeed. Sadly, the children in these families have a high percentage of being in the same position as their parents and are vulnerable growing up in abusive situations because of the lifestyle they are forced to live. How can society just be “okay” with knowing that there are families suffering day to day trying to get through? With no food, water, heat and the list goes on and on. Everyone is so focused on trying to make their own life better that we do not even think to wonder how others are doing. We automatically assume “if I can do it, they can do it”. But that is far from the truth. Families like the ones told in the story will most likely never make it out.


I am Nicole Diaz. I am studying psychology in Bronx Community College. I am student of Rafael Mendez in his class Child Development. I work in Grey Stone Learning Center and I active in my church 7 Seven Day Adventist which I teach bible study to kids.

Nicole read Chapter 2: “Perilous Work” and Chapter 3: “A Room of One’s Own”.

When I read chapter 2 and 3 I was actually amazed because the writer portrays the real life of poor in the United stated in different aspect. She went to details in the economic, emotion and health that those poor women have to handle. In the economic aspect she points out the way that those programs of the government really work and the way that they are affecting the poor development. For example, in chapter 2 there was a part that was talking about stamp. I read something that is so true that if you work and you just gain a little bit of money they reduce your stamps with these make you not want to work harder because if you do, they just take more from you. Being able to read about all these situations that is actually happening makes me feel that there are people like the writer that is seeing what we poor people are going through. It is actually refreshing because it makes you see that you are not crazy. One of the things that the government actually do and the book portrays it so well is that they make you feel that what they are giving to you is the best and if you want more the system does not let you develop in anyways.



Cindy Alvarez writes,

The title of the book is very catchy and makes you wonder who can live with just $2 dollars a day, but after reading chapter 3 I was informed that people in America live on that amount. Housing instability is unjust and unfair but still seems not to get attention from our government, which is disheartening and sheds light on the greedy 1% of people who are millionaires in America.  This makes me think about how gentrification is affecting New York City right now in 2017, how people of color are getting kicked out of their homes because the raise of rent and landlords doing things purposely to get people out. These people are getting kicked out because they don’t have enough money to pay for their rent and people take advantage of the poor as shown in this book.


Raysa Polanco is taking “Life Span Development” with Dr. Mendez and submitted the following comment:

This story made me remember some things that happened  from the Decade of 1960 to 1990, a series of events that have profound effects on the indigent families in the United States. In  Kathryn J. Edín  and H. Lucas Shaefer “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.” Critics of the welfare repeatedly argued that the increase of single mothers was mainly due to the increase of the rates of welfare payments through aid to families with dependent children. Despite scientific evidence offers little support for this claim, the indignation of the public against the program, led by the stereotype of “welfare Queen” that Ronald Reagan said in his speech for the nomination for the Presidency in 1976, led to the requests for further modernization of the welfare system. According to the book “$2.00 a day”, the Narrator is describing the different risks that we face people with almost nothing in America. In addition, the author describes the abuses and obstacles that affect their lives. For a long time, I have had to live a difficult situation by being a single mother. Although I am getting help from the welfare program to raise my son and I continue studying, , this really is not enough when you’re living with a high cost of rent. At the same time, I identify with the case of Jennifer Hernández because I am a single mother and I have had many problems such as health, economic and emotional.  Finally, I would like to congratulate the authors of this book for expressing the reality that we live the people of poor here in America.



Elizabeth Ogunloye is a student in Dr. Mendez’s Abnormal Psychology class.

Some believe that people become poor because they make bad decisions. That can be true, but not all poor people are poor because of their own bad judgment. For example, death could leave behind orphans and widows. Such ones could be affect emotionally which will limit them from performing necessary work, and in turn make them poor. Can people with influence and power change society to eliminate world poverty? Some suggested theories showed that socialism or communism could achieve an international classless society in which wealth was distributed fairly. But this didn’t have much positive effect in preventing poverty. What people fail to realize is that poverty is a result of society’s action to promote and protect self-interest. Another important thing is that, poverty has nothing to do with race. Anyone can be poor.



And from Maria Collado:

The book $2 a Day is very interesting because Edin and Shaefer described the story of so many people who have lived their life based on $2 a Day. I cannot imagine what those people have been through living on $2 a day because it is a extremely low income to satisfy all the basic needs of a family such as clothing, food, hosing. It is as Lenora Fulani says on her speech about poverty who has the same opinion as Edin and Shaefer “ poverty has increased because it has been racialized” based on race or ethnicity and also based on the neighborhood people live in.



Johnny Whiting:

After listening to the presentation by Kathryn Edin and reading the chapter in the book it just made me realize what I have believed all along. The state of poverty in America is man made it started with the unequal treatment of certain races of people and classes of people every since the beginning of time we have put other humans in categories or statuses. Poverty really hit hard in the inner cities were blacks and Latinos live and I believe this is because of prejudges and discrimination lack of the proper education or tool such as books computers etc.; to teach the children of the inner city on the same level as the more privileged kid in more well off neighborhoods. The reason drugs and crime are so prevalent in the inner cities I believe is that the lack of job which means no money so how do you eat how do you feed your children how do you meet your most basic need . I also believe that the powers that be believe that a permanent working class is needed or a permanent poor class as well that’s why the government aloud drugs into our country and flood the inner cities with them a form of oppression. I also believe that the government systems set into place to so call help us really are meant to keep us down, uneducated and dependent on the government welfare is ok but what about giving jobs and jobs that a person or family can live on. Job training, affordable housing how about livable housing get rid of the slum lords if people have a nice place to live and raise there children they would feel better about themselves.


My name is Lucero Acevedo Lugo. I am studying at Bronx Community College hopefully graduating with an Associates in Psychology next semester 2018. My course is Psy 40 and my Professor is Rafael Mendez.


It is incredible how well I was identify with the this amazing book the $2.00 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shafer in chapter 3. The story about Jennifer Hernandez and her children Kaitlin and Cole a story that is a real problem and situation that most of us needs to face. I can be identify with this lady and all the struggles that we face when we talk about trying to find a house or a place to live not that expensive. The housing today it’s very had to obtain it and harder to get an apartment of housing with to rooms. I can conclude that most of our income is going directly to our rent. Rent is too expensive and it takes most of our weekly salary. This chapter really explains the reality that most families struggles with.



Destiny Perez is a student in Introduction to Psychology. She read Chapter 3 and writes:


I’ve always had an idea of the hardships low-income families go through. And although I’ve never experienced it to the extent of the families talked about throughout the chapter, I do believe no one should go through that. There are so many government and federal programs that we can’t access because there are too many restrictions. Even when you do qualify for these programs, the help is not guaranteed. Reading that there are thousands of families still on the waiting list to receive help is appalling. The thought that there are thousands of families in the same situations, if not worse than Rae and Jennifer is sickening.



Astrid Perez writes:

Housing instability is a hallmark of life among $2:00 a Day poor. Children who experience $ 2 a day poverty are far more likely to move over the course of a year than other kids.This affects children severely, not being able to finish a school year and having to start over constantly. The instability is fueled by perilous double ups- that mark and speed the descent of those who are already suffering from the fallout from non sustaining work into the ranks of the desperately poor.
People often turn to family during rough times, especially when earnings have not been sufficient to maintain a place of their own. In some cases when living with relatives, it can end in sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. This trauma often leads to the precipitating factor in a family’s fall into $2 a day poverty.  The most obvious manifestation of the affordable housing crisis is in the rising rents. Rent has raised faster than inflation. People are not making enough money to pay for rent, sustain a home, provide food, the care of their children.


Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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