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The Fallacy of the Middle-Class: Overcoming Social Resentment (XIII). Multidimensional Poverty happens in the Middle-Class.

Have a beautiful day. I will post today instead of this coming Friday. But this coming Friday I won’t be able to sit down to write, so I decided to post beforehand. Let´s begin.

On my last publication I was explaining to you all the details behind the transaction of swapping rental leasing payments for mortgage installments with the purpose to own a house. This example was linked to our lovely LMIC (Low-Middle-Income Class) Salvadoran Family, composed of 5 members (two adults and three children) in which the mother of the family is the only economic provider, and she is earning US$2,400 dollars per month (income before taxes). This is the case for someone who is full-time employed, and she has the blessing of a stable income security, she is lucky to work for the European Union local office in El Salvador. But what happens when the LMIC household providers do not have a job, but work as freelance, or by seasonality times, or these are artists that depend on the selling of their oeuvres of art?

Do you know that the majority of wonderful artists in the world have passed for extreme poverty periods before beginning to sell their art? Do you know this apply not only to artistic painters, but also to musicians, composers, sculptors, ceramicists, singers, poets, writers, etc.

A section of the oeuvre “Emperor Torch Baton”. Painted for the contest of the American Watercolor Society 2019. You can buy it if you wish here:

The majority of artists are Free-lancers who live as Middle-Class with multidimensional poverty. Freelancers are people who decide to don´t get a fixed full time employment, but to have their own time to create their oeuvres, and get paid by project or by specific mandates related to their own creative activities.  

 For example, writers or authors that produce literature. To be a writer is more than an occupation. It means to deposit cerebral activeness in letters and words, which are meaningful not just to the one who writes, but to the one who takes the time to read. Writers communicate as much as painters or any other artist. What you read is what is inside the author. For writers in order to exist, they need to be published in books, in stories, novels, poetry, or at least in Before each of our publications, we need a lot of time not just to be inspired, but to compose thoughts in an organized manner to set them down and communicate properly, not just in style, but in content, format and quality production towards our clients. The clients of the writers are the readers. Not the publishing companies. Each author is offering literacy and literary composition. Once we know of our big responsibility, it is understandable that authors, in this case writers need to be free from a 9 am to 5 pm schedule and become owners of their own time, and we decide to become freelancers.  

The reason why artists should remain independent is related to their own nature activities. Artists need to be freelancers to make a living. We sell our own products (art creations) without a long-term engagement to an employer, but with the personal commitment to our own duty that is to make our oeuvres of art beautiful, with a purpose. We have to find in our own personal time administration, the inner resources and stamina to build our art freely for the sake of sharing literature to our audiences. With such responsibility on our shoulders, how could it be that the majority of artists live under the status of Low-Middle-Income Class or below that?

For example, in my personal case, if I wish to make a living of US$28,800 dollars per year, and my publishing company sells my first book edition for US$15 dollars/book each, that means that I should sell at least 400 books per month.  Oui! 400 books/month x US$15 dollars x 0.40 x 12 months = US$ USD 28,800 a year (before income taxes). Remember that the editorial publishing company pays to writers only a fraction of the book price, in this case I am lucky to have negotiated 40%. My publisher pays me 40% for each book that it is printed, under the contract that I signed for three years with them, and after that, under a royalties scheme.  If my books are not sold, then I do not receive anything in return.

Artistic Painters are Freelancers who also have experienced multidimensional poverty. Another example, in the case of art paintings. If I wish to make a living of US$28,800 dollars per year, that means that I should sell at least one original painting of 30 inches x 22 inches for an amount of US$2,400 each every month, and even with that price, my life-style will be limited, because I am still under the status of a LMIC.  Another option for me as an artistic painter is to sell directly to the ending client, all the adorable animals miniature paintings that I painted on the pandemic, each of 5 inches x 7 inches size at US$500 dollars per oeuvre, and if I wish to survive for the next year, I have to sell all of these 58 little paintings (58 miniature paintings multiplied by US$500 equals US$28,800/year). If I try to sell my art through galleries (on-line web portals as Saatchi Art or through recognized galleries as Jonathan Cooper), my pricing will have to be shared with the gallery on a 60-40 ratio (usually 40% of the value of the painting is left to the gallery, and the artist only receives 60%).

The story of us who are freelancers. As an emerging painter of watercolors and as an emerging corporate strategy author, the beginning of our road to be economically independent is tough, it is hard, and we suffer a lot of deprivations. When we begin this path, we really live below the LMIC families all over the world. It takes years to attract a good editorial publishing house that would be interested to publish our work. It takes years to sell our first watercolor oeuvre.  With time, once the quality of our work raises, and we begin to be recognized by our most advanced peers (who also experienced poverty and had to wait sometimes decades to cash-out their talent), emerging artists can raise the value of their oeuvres, particularly if we are lucky to be chosen by prestigious collectors… and this is the story of all of us who are freelancers. Any artist that is a freelancer is experiencing inevitably this journey path, and this applies to every one of us who decided to don´t get a full time job, but to dedicate all our energies to improve our oeuvres production. We knew it was going to be as such. But we decided to go this way… Maybe because we believe so strongly that the initial sacrifice of living in multidimensional poverty will pay off all our efforts in the future, and our hope is always centered under the essence that if we work harder and strengthen our quality of artistic work, we will raise up from the valley of precariousness, because our oeuvre will be much better and it is valuable and it is improving day by day.

In consequence, any of us, the artists of the world, who are self-made and freelancers can tell exactly to my readers what is the meaning of multidimensional poverty. I am just a corporate strategy artist who is gathering my own experience and their voices. I love to write and paint art, and because of that we have started to peel the onion of the truth of the Middle-Class fallacy.

Multidimensional poverty exists at every level of the Middle-Class, not just at the segment of low-class segment of the population. For the United States Census Bureau under the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, the concept of multidimensional deprivation came out as an integral alternative of measure of poverty. More than a decade ago, the U.S. Census Bureau decided to start measuring the MDI (Multidimensional Deprivation Index) by conducting the ACS (American Community Survey) in parallel to the traditional poverty statistics.

Traditionally the official methodology specified by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) of the Government of the United States of America, measured poverty in terms of OPM (Official Poverty Measure) and SPM (Supplemental Poverty Measure) which are uni-dimensional measures of poverty based on income distribution only.

What is MDI? When the ACS was established, this happened to provide data to measure the Multidimensional Deprivation Index in the US. With this new indicator, MDI, the US Census Bureau wanted to include those who are poor by income, but additionally include people who believe that are Middle-Class, but face hardships or deprivations in other areas of their lives. The US is not alone in this initiative. As of 2017, 16 countries have used national and local MDIs, and these are México, Bhutan, Colombia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Vietnam, Ecuador Pakistan, Honduras, Mozambique, Armenia, Panama Dominican Republic and Nepal. In the US, the number of dimensions used to do MDIs calculations are 6. These dimensions are:

  1. Standard of Living: as an income measure, closely related to the traditional unidimensional poverty measures of OPM and SPM.
  2. Education: Limited education may limit opportunities and job employment.  Limited education makes significantly more difficult to increase work possibilities and economic stable standing. For this specific case, a person is considered deprived in education if he or she is over 18 years old and is without a high school degree.
  3. Health: Poor health can make working or enjoying life more difficult. People who have hearing difficulties, vision problems, difficulty to move without help, difficulties to dressing, physical sickness difficulties and mental difficulties. Health also includes lack of good nutrition.
  4. Economic Security: To be economically insecure means that the person lacks of health insurance, has been without employment for 12 months, and if the cumulative hours worked per week for the household is less than the legally stipulated with no pension plans or retirement pension savings or no social security income in this household. The majority of freelancers (and so forth artists) do not have economic security.
  5. Housing Quality: If a household doesn´t have the minimum requirements of good quality physical space and security that can be observed if:
    • It lacks of a complete kitchen equipped with all its necessary appliances.
    • It lacks of complete plumbing systems
    • Overcrowding spaces (if it has more than two people sharing the same bedroom)
    • It represents a cost burden (residents face a cost burden if they spend more than 30% of their gross household income on housing costs).
  6. Neighborhood quality: Residents are considered deprived or poor if they live in neighborhoods with
    • High crime counties (if there are more than 500 violent crimes per 100,000 people)
    • Poor air quality: which is measured in pollution statistics of the Environmental Public Health Tracking Network bureau.
    • Poor Food Environment, measured on proximity to good quality grocery stores and access to a reliable food source.

With all these described dimensions on our table, and according to the definition of MDI calculations, a person must meet the conditions of at least two dimensions of the last 6 listed, in order to be considered under a multidimensional deprivation status.

Before the pandemic (with data of the year 2017), the U. S. OPM (Official poverty measure) was 13.4%. This signifies that a bit of 13 people from 100 were considered poor under the Low-Income status in the U.S. On average the low-income class in the U.S. earn a median income before taxes o US$ 28,800 dollars per year. Remember that the OPM measure is only calculated by income.

But what a surprise, the results of the MDI measure report (Multidimensional Deprivation Index) on the same year (2017) have shown that more than 37% of the American population were deprived in one or more dimensions of the 6 deprivation items listed above, which means that after the COVID19, this percentage can increase to at least 50%. Do you see it? In one phrase: 50% of the American Population, or the equivalent to the total of Middle-Class families in the US may be considered deprived in certain dimensions that sets them up under the status of poor, even if their incomes are situated in the category of middle-income.

In the US, you can erroneously believe that belong to the middle-class income family (in the US the definition of middle class by income distribution is somewhere  between US$40,000 to US$140,000 per year), but in reality before and after the pandemic, your family suffered or is now suffering of one or more of the deprivations in standard of living, education, health, economic security, housing quality or neighborhood quality. Can you believe that even if you are considered a Middle-Class family, you could be living under deprivation?

To be continued…

Sources of reference cited to write this article:
Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine.  I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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