Poverty Simulations

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Poverty Simulations


Why Poverty Simulations?

Poverty is often portrayed as a stand-alone issue – but this simulation allows individuals to walk a month in the shoes of someone who is facing poverty and realize how complex and interconnected issues of poverty really are.

  • A single parent with limited resources and no transportation must find a way to get to work and get their child to daycare.
  • An elderly person must find a way to pay for both utilities and medication.
  • A young adult must care for siblings while their parent is incarcerated.
  • An elderly couple must raise their grandchildren and deal with their own health and employment issues.

The poverty simulation is a tool that helps participants rethink the challenges that millions of low-income individuals must face each and every day. More importantly, this tool helps people identify areas of change that can directly impact the effects of poverty on individuals, families and communities.

Watch a video about Proctor & Gamble’s experience with Step Up’s poverty simulation.

What is it like?

During the poverty simulation, you will take on the identity of someone else. For two hours,  you will work together with your “family” to live a month in poverty. Poverty Simulation

Your simulated “community” is a large room. You and your neighbors’ “homes” are chairs in the center. The services you need like banks, schools and grocery stores are tables that line the perimeter of the room.

Like real life, you need transportation to work or school. You need food on the table. You might struggle with a chronic illness. Throughout the month, you will face the daily stresses and challenges a person in poverty faces.

This simulation is not a game; it is based on the stories of real families.

Are you ready to #ReThinkPoverty?



I would recommend every decision maker whether in business, elected office (or seeking elected office), or community organizations to avail themselves of this thought-provoking experience.

While I still do not know what it is like to really be poor (I was able to leave the simulation when it was over), I know more than I did before and I believe that is the point. Better decisions come through knowledge and therefore all of us that are in positions of affecting change should be seeking that knowledge.

John Matthews


The simulation kit was developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action of Jefferson City, MO.  To purchase a poverty simulation kit for your community, visit Missouri’s Community Action website or contact 573.634.2969.