If you have never experienced poverty, it might be worthwhile to detail what it means to be impoverished in America. In a nationally representative study of over 60,000 adults requiring food assistance, 40% said they cut back on food, delayed or stopped paying utility bills, and avoided medical treatments as a sacrifice to keep their household.
In case you think low-income families are free riders relishing the good life at the government’s expense, consider these sobering statistics: 69% skipped washing dishes or doing laundry, 48% delayed changing a baby’s diaper, and 32% reused diapers. When an increasingly large number of the populace is unable to afford hygienic products, it becomes that much easier for a virus to spread. A staggering number of Americans are currently unemployed, and the numbers will grow in the weeks ahead.
In the past three years, the political parties in America split on whether every move taken by President Trump is intelligent and useful, or asinine and harmful. The president’s approval ratings rise and fall by month, ranging between 35% and 49%. Many objects to almost everything he says or does. Just like prior presidents, he makes poor decisions—and good decisions.
In our view, the decision to press the economy forward may be his best yet but the quality of that decision may take years to appreciate. We suggest readers consider both the short- and long-term consequences of a strategic resurgence of businesses and jobs. Instead of a blanket closure of everything, specific decisions to keep carefully sequestered healthy workplaces and workforces in action may prove most useful.
It will require a commitment to unusual guidelines, such as being geographically limited in activity (perhaps short-term lodging in businesses for those who are able). Don’t let the media or social pressure push you into premature closure on a single answer without consideration of the multiple, interwoven factors at play. Magical silver bullets are rare and unlikely. The uncertainty that exists for the coronavirus can be buffeted by a large body of psychological data on the colossal economic, social, and health impact of unemployment.
We don’t have the answers. We are skeptical when people show absolute confidence in singular answers during uncertain situations. We do hope the policymakers experimenting with solutions are collecting data, upgrading their thinking based on new data, and being unafraid to change directions as warranted.
Todd B. Kashdan and Patrick E. McKnight are professors of psychology and co-lead The Well-Being Laboratory at George Mason University. Kashdan is the author of several books including Curious? and The Upside of Your Dark Side.
References Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., Daly, M., & Sedikides, C. (2015). Personality change following unemployment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(4), 991-1011. Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Scollon, C. N. (2006). Beyond the hedonic treadmill: revising the adaptation theory of well-being. American Psychologist, 61(4), 305-14. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2004). Unemployment alters the set point for life satisfaction. Psychological Science, 15(1), 8-13. Nordt, C., Warnke, I., Seifritz, E., & Kawohl, W. (2015). Modelling suicide and unemployment: a longitudinal analysis covering 63 countries, 2000–11. The Lancet Psychiatry, 2(3), 239-245.
Written by: Todd B. Kashdan
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today
Republished with permission