NDSU Student Activities simulates poverty on campus

Brayden Zenker | The Spectrum
Photo from the Nov. 2015 Poverty Simulation

The simulation may not be needed for some students to feel the effects of poverty

North Dakota State University Student Activities is hosting the bi-annual Poverty Simulation on Feb. 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The simulation is meant to educate students about what life is like living in poverty. The simulation pairs students into family groups that are based on examples of low-income families. Each family has unique situations and obstacles. The goal for each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic needs of survival.

Graduate Assistant for Civic Engagement, Tayler Morris, is the main organizer of the simulation.

“It’s meant to simulate, as close as anything can, to what real-life poverty is like,” Morris said.

Each student is randomly given a role to play within the family. Each character is assigned a short bio about who they are. After the short introduction students are in control of the decisions the character makes. There is an assortment of roles that students may be assigned to play during the simulation.

“Families are made up of a variety of different situations to simulate the different situations real-life people find themselves in,” Morris said.

The simulation is separated into four 15-minute sessions. Each session is equivalent to one week. During the simulation, students will go to work, pay bills, feed their family, take their children to school and more. There are also certain stipulations that students must follow as well. For example, a student must spend at least seven minutes during the cycle at their job to be paid.

“It’s meant to simulate, as close as anything can, to what real-life poverty is like,”

Graduate Assistant for Civic Engagement Tayler Morris

“There are all different kinds of activities that [students] have to do in a limited time with very little resources,” Morris said.

Students will also receive situations cards, called Luck of the Draw cards, throughout the simulation. Luck of the Draw cards can be both positive and negative. Negative situations can range from a sick child needing to be picked up from school to a workplace injury. Positive situations range from finding ten dollars on the street to winning a local lottery.

“Sometimes you get good things, sometimes you get bad things,” Morris said. “That kind of how life goes. [The cards] simulate the hand of fate.”

In 2018, over 38 million Americans, or around 11 percent of the population, lived below the poverty threshold. According to the US Census Bureau, if an individual under the age of 65 makes 13,300 dollars per year, they are considered to be below the poverty threshold.

According to Poverty USA, in 2017, 79,374 people were living in poverty in North Dakota. The largest age demographic living in poverty in ND are people ages 18 to 24. Men from that age group make up 10.3 percent of those living in poverty. While women are the most affected, accounting for 14.3 percent of individuals living in poverty.

According to a brief published by the University of California, Berkeley, published in June 2019, young adult poverty rates are the highest among all age groups. Young adult poverty has been on the rise since the 1970s. However, poverty in almost every other age has fallen since the 1970s.

Young adults enrolled full-time in college are more likely to live in poverty than their counterparts that don’t attend college. Between 2008 and 2015, poverty decreased by 2.9 percent for young adults not attending school. While during the same time poverty increased by 4.7 percent in young adults attending college.

The Social Safety Net also has a limited impact on reducing poverty in this age group. The Social Safety Net is a system of multiple Welfare Programs to prevent low-income individuals from falling below the poverty threshold. Some of these programs include housing assistance, Pell Grants, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program formally known as Food Stamps and job training. The Social Safety Net reduced newborn poverty by 10.3 percent and reduced poverty in people 75 and older by 45.5 percent. While the Social Safety Net only reduced poverty in young adults by 4.8 percent.

The brief attributes the rise in poverty in young adults to two trends. The first, it is harder for this age group to be hired. This age group often lacks experience and skills with limited education. These reasons are often why people from this age group aren’t hired for high skill and higher-paying jobs.

The second is young adults aren’t benefiting from the Social Safety Net like other age groups are. The programs focus more on poverty in other age groups. Specifically, individuals under 18 and individuals 65 and older.

Students can register for the Poverty Simulation until Monday, Feb. 10 on the NDSU Student Activities website or https://www.ndsu.edu/studentactivities/civic/poerty_simulations/.

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