Poverty Simulation


The POVERTY SIMULATION is a course module variation of a program  created by the Missouri Association for Community Action. The experience helps people better understand what it feels like to live life “on the financial edge.”

In this in-person simulation, participants assume the roles of families facing poverty. Some work low wage jobs, others are newly unemployed, some are recently deserted by the “breadwinner” and others are recipients of TANF (temporary assistance). Still others are senior citizens receiving Social Security or grandparents raising their grandchildren. The task of the “families” is to provide for basic necessities and shelter during the course of four 15 minute “weeks.”

The simulation includes resources and services, represented at special tables by people who’ve either personally faced poverty or work in our area with those who do.

The entire experience lasts 2.5 – 3 hours. It includes an introduction, briefing, the actual simulation exercise, and a debriefing period. During the debriefing, community members who staff the simulation critique the simulation sharing their perspectives and experience of living low-income in the Berkshires.

The module is suitable for courses in psychology, social welfare, poverty policy, and public finance. It is also helpful to community groups interested in raising public awareness. Contact Paula Consolini at [email protected] for more information.

For a virtual experience, a poverty simulation that cites Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed: On Getting By in America is available online. SPENT, a collaboration between McKinney and Ministries of Durham was launched in 2011 to raise awareness about need, resources and scraping by.