Escaping a Culture of Poverty

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I was recently interviewed by the Washington Post. The Federal Survey of Consumer Finances had just released their 2016 report, showing the rising number of white millionaires in the last 25 years. The first question the Washington Post reporter had was why?

I told the reporter that many of the individuals who became millionaires over the last twenty-five years were baby boomers. Since most of those boomers were white, naturally there would be a greater number of white millionaires over the past twenty-five years.

Simple enough, right?

But the follow-up question the Washington Post reporter asked was really the more important question:

Why wasn’t the black community seeing a corresponding increase?

I told the reporter that we did not have a wealth gap in America, we had a parenting gap. Sadly, there is a culture of poverty in the black community and at the heart of this culture of poverty is one very alarming statistic – 72% of black children are raised without a father.

Why does that statistic matter?

According to my Rich Habits research, our daily habits are the reason why we are rich, poor or stuck in the middle-class. And where do we get most of our habits?

According to a study by Dr. Pressman of Brown University, we pick up most of our adult habits by the age of nine. And for most of those formative years, it is our parents who teach us those habits. Most of the self-made millionaires in my study confirmed that they were taught certain, specific habits by their parents that enabled them to succeed in life.

Children raised in single-parent households are at a clear disadvantage. And it’s not a 50% disadvantage, it’s a 100% disadvantage. Single-parents are the sole provider and this often means working long hours or taking on a second job in order to earn enough money just to survive. This leaves little to no time to mentor their kids for success by teaching them good success habits. This 72% single-parent statistic represents a culture of poverty. And until that culture changes, or until that one parent becomes a success mentor to their kids, children raised in single-parent households will forever lag behind children raised in two-parent households.

This single-parent statistic, along with the story of Ben Carson, motivated me to write my book Rich Kids, a book which shares the success habits self-made millionaires learned from their parents. It is also why I spent the past six years speaking to close to 2,500 high school and college students, specifically in lower-income school districts in the New York metropolitan area.

Dr. Ben Carson was raised by a single mother in the ghettos of Detroit. Concerned that their sons, Ben and Curtis, were taking the wrong path in life, Sonya Carson made a fateful decision that altered all of their lives forever. Sonya Carson, a single mother with a third grade education, turned the T.V. off for her kids, limiting them to only two hours of T.V. a week and forced her two young boys to read two books every week and then write a summary of what they read and what they learned from their reading. Each week they would hand their mom this summary for her to review. Sonya would mark up the summary with notations and hand the summary back to her boys. Reading for learning, soon became a daily habit for Ben and Curtis.

What the boys didn’t know until they were in high school was that their mother, Sonya, was illiterate. She could not read their book summaries. But intuitively Sonya knew that reading for learning was a way out of the ghettos. Sonya did not believe life was hopeless. That belief was pulled, like a weed, from their lives. Hopelessness never had a chance to take root in their family household.

Ben Carson went on to become a world famous neurosurgeon and recently ran for President of the United States. Curtis Carson went on to become a senior mechanical engineer with Honeywell, specializing in developing braking systems for aircraft. Sonya went on to get her GED, went on to college and in 1994 received an honorary doctorate degree from Spalding University. All of Sonya’s grandchildren attend college or graduate school in prestigious higher education institutions.

One good habit, reading, taught by one parent, literally lifted Ben and Curtis out of poverty. So, there is hope, even in single-parent households. The cycle of poverty can be broken, even in single-parent households. But only when that single-parent becomes a success mentor to their children. And in order to be a success mentor, you must teach your kids certain, specific habits that will help them succeed in life.

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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  1. I’m sure if you do more research you would come up with more than because little black children grew up in the “ghetto” with “no fathers” that’s the reason white people are wealthy.

    Here are some key points you should consider
    Red Lining
    Mass Incarceration
    Generation Wealth
    Loan Discrimation
    Education Discrimation
    Housing Discrimation
    Job Discrimation
    Section 8
    Most Non Profit Programs
    Predatory Lending

    Fun Facts
    Freedman Saving & Trust over 3 million is the 1800 stolen
    Black Wall Street one of the many mass killed
    Harlem’s crack epidemic

    I challenge you to do the research and tell the truth but I understand that the no daddy lazy black folk welfare queen narrative is more entertaining

  2. Davene Meehan says:

    This is a significant–non PR stance. It excites me because if it is only habits that make or break us. These can be taught by someone. I have made a bulletin board of poor and rich habits in the hall across from my math class AND My restroom (each class has their own restroom) reiterates much of the information on the wall mixed with geometric shapes. In my quest to find a place to volunteer, I have started following and commenting on blog posts for a wonderful philanthropic organization here: Studer Community Institute. No one ever responds to me. (Perhaps they think I am crazy, but then I am the ONLY one who puts comments. I have several times mentioned your wonderful book Change Your Habits: Change Your Life. They are focused on making this a better town. What could be better than integrating this habits in some way.

  3. Davene Meehan says:

    This is such a courageous stance, but you have to make as that is what the data shows. There is a philanthropic organization here–Studer Community Institute. In quest to find an organization to volunteer with–I have been reading and responding to their blogs. Their focus is on teaching parents to speak to their children from birth, as well as bettering our city and helping those following their financial dreams. No one else really comments and they never respond to my posts. But I have mentioned several times your wonderful book Change Your Habits, Change Your Life. I feel excited that this gives a way to help move those in poverty out of poverty. I have made a bulletin board with these habits and main ideas across from my math classroom as well as having the main points all over the walls in my classroom bathroom (high school for expelled students).

  4. I have read this article and it has made me think about the mentorship angle that either a two parenting or single parenting give to their children. I have an irresponsible mother who messed up my life savings. Unemployed am thinking of what next? I’m hopeful that I’ll get a good paying job(still searching for one) and implement the advice in your blog. At least now that I’m reading your blog I’ll encourage myself to start over again despite my age. I’ll press on…with your blog posts! Thanks.

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