Poverty Premium Research (University of Michigan and UC Davis)

Quote

“Because they have to buy small quantities, they have little inventory at home and can’t wait until a sale presents itself to purchase again, making it even harder to take advantage of sales,” says Orhun, professor for marketing. “It’s a double whammy.”

“It’s not about poor people making poor decisions; it’s about them facing liquidity constraints,” she says, “and it matters even for what we’d consider small purchases.

Frugality is Hard to Afford, news release about research completed by Professor Yesim Orhun and PhD student Mike Palazzolo; 02/24/2016

Frugality is Hard to Afford, Working Paper (Revising for invited resubmission at Journal of Marketing Research), Mar 20, 2016, Mike Palazzolo – Paper available for download

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Perhaps this sounds like a subtle discovery about minor household goods. But it supports a larger point about poverty: It’s expensive to be poor. Or, to state the same from another angle: Having more money gives people the luxury of paying less for things.

Why the poor pay more for toilet paper — and just about everything else by Emily Badger, Washington Post, 3/8/2016

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In a recent working paper, the University of Michigan’s A. Yesim Orhun and Mike Palazzolo, point to how two of American shoppers’ (and marketers’) favorite money-saving strategies, the limited-time offer and buying in bulk, come with savings that are more accessible to some consumers than others. Choosing to buy things when they’re on sale or packaged in huge quantities is something lots of shoppers may take for granted as a matter of preference, but for many, these purchases—and the savings that come with them—are out of reach.

The Privilege of Buying 36 Rolls of Toilet Paper at Once, The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker, MAY 12, 2016

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Limited access to supermarkets and discount stores, which contributes to the idea that poor people end up paying more for things or the “poverty penalty,” is one of the biggest problems facing low-income neighborhoods.

But the study suggests that low-income families can’t always afford bulk or sale items in the stores that they do have access to.

Why poor families are paying more for everyday items like toilet paper by Ahiza Garcia, CNN Money, March 25 2016.

Unforgettable Wild Blueberries

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Back in the late 1980s, while working in the boundary waters for the SCA as a teenaged volunteer worker, there was a weekend when the team took a canoe trip to an island, just for fun. Given we were living on an island and every trip to a work site required a canoe made the fact that we were canoeing to an island rather mundane – which is odd to think about, so many years later.

The ‘boundary waters’ is a term applied (by locals) to a very large area of water and land lying between the United States and Canada. It is used to refer to areas of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin (on the USA side). Yet, the landscape has many similarities, across hundreds of miles. This novel is located in Minnesota, which is where I was located while working the ‘boundary waters,’ and some of the descriptions of the landscape and life in the outdoors reminded me of that summer in Superior National Forest and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

Which brings me back to the island. To get to a specific hillside, we had to canoe to the island itself, tie up the canoes, hike in, tie our shoes and supplies in bags held onto our heads and swim across this amazingly beautiful still-water (and extremely deep) lake. It was a short swim and the water felt wonderful. On the other side was a hillside covered in blueberry bushes and we spent most of the afternoon just relaxing and collecting blueberries.

When I read the following quote, I immediately remembered the island, the swim and the blueberries. Everything described below made me think ‘yeah, I know that.’

QUOTE:

He picked a handful for both of them to see. Blueberries. Small ones. These were like the green berries she had seen on the Big Island, except they were blue. A whole hillside of blue. Nika put one in her mouth. The taste was sharp and sweet, better than the fat puffy blueberries from the store. Ian laughed as he watched her face. The three of them went to work. For a long time there was no sound except the drumming of blueberries onto the bottoms of aluminum pots. Nika moved to a new patch of little bushes heavy with berries, eating most of what she picked. Ian looked her way as she stuffed another handful in her mouth, as though she were unwrapping a gift he’d given her. He smiled, then returned to picking. She was blown away that the blueberries just grew here. Nobody planted them. Maybe they had been growing here for a thousand years. Or more. Eagerly she began filling her own pot.

Summer of The Wolves by Polly Carlson-Voiles