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Getting Out of Poverty

By jamasalynn Oct 02, 2011 3610 Words

A Community Plan

Prepared for

Prepared by
Jamasa Sattler
Developing Stability, Inc.

June 1, 2011

June 1, 2011

Melanie Widmer, Mayor
Madras City Hall
71 SE D Street
Madras, OR 97741

Dear Ms Widmer:

As a resident of Jefferson County, I have an interest in the community’s economic stability. I am equally concerned with the large population of individuals and families struggling to provide for themselves. The attached report briefly explains the work of Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. and how it relates to bringing people out of poverty. Considering the current economy and the rise of people utilizing agency services, we believe Dr. Payne’s work to be crucial in helping those who are struggling to make ends meet. The report provides a brief overview into the beliefs and strategies behind this work.

This report will provide the following:

• A glimpse into poverty
• Background of Ruby Payne’s work
• Hidden Rules of Economic Class
• Next Steps

The bulk of research came from Ruby Payne’s books, articles, and website (, with additional data obtained from local agencies who work with the impoverished population.

My colleagues and I would be pleased to discuss this report and its ideas in more detail. This could be a community altering opportunity, one which would lead the path in moving people from poverty to middle class. We are excited about the opportunity to meet with you, as well as with other elected officials, to brainstorm the possibilities of bringing this in depth training to Jefferson County.

Please call me at 541-444-1111 if you have any questions or when you are ready to discuss the report in more detail. I look forward to hearing from you.


Jamasa Sattler, Director
Developing Stability, Inc.



With poverty increasing worldwide over the past decade, the middle class has been shrinking. Jefferson County is no exception – 2009 data shows that 33.5% of the county’s population was living at or below 185% of the federal poverty level (statewide data is 29.2%). This means that for a family of four, gross monthly income is less than $3400. County Data from 2010 shows us that 79.5% (2,849) of public school students in Jefferson County were eligible for free and reduced lunches; statewide 50.2% of students were eligible (County Data Files, 2010). In order to help those in poverty become self sufficient, we person need to understand how those in poverty think, and how their priorities and mindsets differ from those in middle and upper class. When the lives of people in poverty improve, so do the communities in which they live. We would like to bring this understanding to Jefferson County agency staff, public officials, law enforcement, educators, and business owners.

We advocate the work of Dr Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. -- author, educator, and founder of aha!Process, a publishing and training organization. Dr. Payne educates audiences about the effects poverty has on students, families, and communities. Her trainings provide the tools necessary to overcome the obstacles which are created as a result of the differences in economic class. It is believed that by understanding the mindset of people struggling in poverty, we can easier aid in improving their lives. By having a set of workshops and interactive experiences, we will train attendees to better understand the ideas that shape the poverty framework. Also to be explored are the successful in-school programs that help students break the cycle of poverty by increasing their academic success.

This report will provide a brief overview on Ruby Payne’s work and provide some detail about the Hidden Rules of Economic Class. We believe that bringing Dr Payne’s efforts to Jefferson County will provide the tools necessary to reduce levels of poverty and increase economic stability. PROBLEM

Jefferson County has seen the effects of the recent economic downturn--businesses closing, people moving, homes in foreclosure, and people without jobs. Information put together by Oregon State University documents the increasing number of people living in poverty within Jefferson County. Data gathered in 2000 shows 14.6% of the county population was living in poverty; by 2009 this increased to 16.9%. Statewide 11.6% of the population was living in poverty during 2000, increasing to 13.6% in 2009. Additional data shows a rise in TANF (cash assistance) recipients in Jefferson County, from 2.34% in 2008 to 3.17% in 2009. Throughout the state of Oregon, TANF recipients increased from 1.27% in 2008 to 2.06% in 2009 (University). The 2011 Federal Poverty Guideline for a family of four is $22,350 (Register, 2011). If a family of four grosses less than $22,350 per household annually, they are considered to be living in poverty. In 2005, 75% of children attending public school were eligible to receive free/reduced price lunches; five years later 76.3% of public school children were eligible. The consistently high percentage is one indicator that the vein of generational poverty runs deep through Jefferson County.

A good portion of the increase in poverty statistics is due to the current economy and the loss of good paying jobs, which has directly impacted middle class families. Unfamiliar with the hidden rules of the poverty class, they find themselves unsure where to turn for help; pride keeps many of them from seeking agency assistance. If these families are unable to rise out of poverty and regain their footing in the middle class again, they will be raising their children in poverty, thus starting the cycle that begins generational poverty. Jefferson County also has a population whose families have been living in poverty for multiple generations. We are now beyond prevention and band-aids, and we need to utilize a new set of tools in order to help this population become self-sufficient. BACKGROUND

Ruby Payne founded the aha!Process, Inc. in 1994, a publishing and training company focused on educating communities and schools about poverty and the hidden rules of economic class. As an educator, Dr. Payne’s experiences working with students, from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, taught her that hidden rules exist in each economic group. Only by understanding these rules will individuals have the tools necessary to reach the next level. Misunderstandings and communication break-downs can happen when those in positions of power and authority come from a class using rules different from those they are serving. Ruby is a co-author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty and Bridges Out of Poverty (About Ruby K Payne, Ph.D.). Numerous communities around the nation have benefited from the many workshops and seminars available: • A Framework for Understanding Poverty

• Bridges Out of Poverty – Strategies for Professionals and Communities • Bridges and Circles National Community Building Conference • Bridges for Business – (variety of sub topics)
• Bridges Into Health: Strategies to Reduce Inequities and Improve Health Outcomes • Application of Learning Strategies
• Collaboration for Kids: Early Intervention Tools for Schools and Communities • Conflict Management
• Consulting/Academic Coaching
• Creating Well-Adjusted Boys at Home and at School
• Engage and Graduate Your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts • Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’ By World
• Investigations Into Economic Class in America
• Living on a Tightrope
• The Paraprofessional: A Key to Student Success
• Putting the Pieces Together
• Raising Achievement with 9 Systemic Processes
• Readiness Skills and Relationship Building
• Reclaiming the Classroom: Discipline and Working with Parents • Removing the Mask: Identifying and Serving Gifted Students from Poverty • Research-Based Strategies for Students on Poverty and Low-Performing Schools • The R Rules: A Guide for Teens to Identify and Build Resources • Transitioning to the Common Core: A Road Map to Learning • Tucker Signing Strategies for Reading

• Understanding Hispanic/Latino Students and Their Parents • Vocabulary and Mental Model Development for Preschool For over 15 years, Dr. Payne has worked with those desiring higher achieving schools and prosperous communities. Since 1996, the aha!Process has worked with over 115 schools nationwide resulting in amazing outcomes, including higher testing scores. The School Improvement Model, a comprehensive and research-based approach to success in school, meets the requirements set under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (School Improvement Model).

In 2001 the Central Oregon Partnership (currently the Partnership to End Poverty) brought Dr. Payne’s work to Central Oregon by way of her two day “Bridges out of Poverty” workshop. “Bridges out of Poverty” is a solution-based program that provides the tools necessary to aid employers, community organizations, and social-service agencies in working successfully with individuals from poverty. Additional workshops were coordinated to train leaders so that continued workshops and trainings could be implemented throughout Central Oregon. In 2006, “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettn’ By World” was taught in Redmond and Madras. This series of classes was specifically for those persons deep-rooted in a life of poverty, whereby participants created a written and personalized plan that would lead them to self-sufficiency[1].

The YWCA of Saint Joseph County, Indiana, saw great improvements in clients participating in the “Getting Ahead in a Just Gettn’ by World” program which was implemented there. Small groups of 10-15 participants each take part in 45 hours of classroom education over the course of 8 weeks. They are shown how to use the hidden rules of class to build financial, emotional, social, and economical resources. Participants examine their lives and explore the impact poverty has had on them, they examine their current economic situation, evaluate current resources, and subsequently make a plan to build additional resources on their way toward self-sufficiency. Current program graduates are then connected with previous graduates to participate in monthly networking groups. Participants were tracked over the course of the following year, with results being documented at the end of two six-month periods. In May 2006, the end of the first six-month period (Quarter 1 on chart), the program had a completion rate of 57%. July 2007 marked the end of the second six-month period (Quarter 2 on chart) with a program completion rate of 87%. With the increase in participation, the YWCA also saw positive life changes for the participants. By the end of the first period 36% of participants showed movement toward achieving additional education, and 32% had improved their employment situation. At the end of the second period 69% of participants had moved toward meeting their educational goals, and 63% had moved towrd full-time, self-sufficient employment (Indiana-Based Getting Ahead Program Sees Strong Movement Toward Reducing Poverty's Grip, 2008).


The general definition of poverty is “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support”. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines poverty as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions ( Poverty is said to exist when people lack the ability to meet their basic needs, but what constitutes basic needs? Are ones basic needs those in which are necessary for survival, thus reaching the population near the borderline of starvation or death from exposure? Or are ones basic needs based on the prevailing standard of living in the community, extending poverty to those whose nutrition, housing, and clothing may be adequate to preserve life, but do not measure up to those of the population as a whole? Regardless of definition, it has been well documented that the effects of poverty are harmful to both individuals and society (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008).

( Poverty is relative – a person’s financial wealth is compared to their surrounding community. People living in undeveloped countries live in poverty according to U.S. standards, but within these countries there exists the same levels of economic class.

( Poverty is NOT prejudice! As seen by the current decline in our economy, poverty is not partial to social class, skin color, or religion.

( Economic class is a continuous line, not a clear-cut distinction.

( There exist two types of poverty, generational and situational. Middle class families falling under poverty guidelines due to job loss provide a present day example of situational poverty.

( We carry with us the hidden rules of class in which we were raised. Schools and businesses operate using middle calls rules. (Payne, DeVol, & Smith, 2001, p. 6-7)

The escape out of poverty requires more than financial resources. It requires emotional resources, mental resources, spiritual resources, physical resources, support systems, relationships & role models, coping strategies, and knowledge of the hidden rules (Payne, DeVol, & Smith, 2001). After years of working with people in poverty, it is apparent there is a disconnect between agencies and those they serve. It’s difficult to help someone when there is no understanding of their mindset and what they struggle with. By bringing Dr. Payne’s training to our community, we can lead the way in bringing people out of poverty and teach them to be self-sufficient. It goes without saying that with every job comes a degree of compassion in helping those less fortunate. Social agencies, especially, focus daily efforts on serving those with a variety of needs. How productive is the help when the communication language doesn’t line up, or when there are pre-conceived notions on how each party should behave when relating to the other? Each economic class has a set of ‘hidden rules’ in which they operate. Success comes when we become aware of the ‘hidden rules’ and learn how to work within the rules of the clients we serve. But this is just one side of the coin, we also need to educate those living in poverty of the rules in which they need to follow in order to advance to middle class.


Our economic realites create the unconscious rules by which we live. The hidden rules of class are the “unspoken cues” used to imply membership within a group (Payne, 1996). There is a distinction between those in poverty vs. middle class vs. the wealthy in the way events are processed, what motivates them, what’s important to them, and of course, how they view and handle their resources (see chart on the following page). Understanding the influence economic class has on individual behavior can directly improve outcomes; different realities demand different types of behaviors.

For example, regarding financial resources, those in poverty view money as something to be spent. The middle class view money as something to be managed, and the wealthy view it as something to be invested. So if those in poverty would just save their money and not spend it foolishly, they could get themselves out of poverty, right? Wrong! The problem goes much deeper than that. The average adult exists within the economic class in which they were raised and they carry with them the same set of ‘hidden rules’. In order to move from one economic class to the next, a person must change their way of thinking, and in essence live within the set of ‘hidden rules’ of the class they wish to belong. People in poverty need to learn the rules of the middle class, they need to live by those rules if they wish to move from poverty to middle class as supported by Dr. Payne’s work.

What motivates people in their respective class? People in poverty make decisions based on survival, relationships, and entertainment. The middle class base their decisions on work and achievement, while the wealthy make decisions based on social, financial, and political connections. When faced with a tough choice, those in poverty examine how the possible decisions will affect their relationships with others. Those in middle class think less about the effect their decision will have on their relationships, and more on how the decision affects their work goals and personal achievements. In this respect, the wealthy think very little about relationsihps when faced with a decision; their focus is how the decision will affect their social standing, their financial position, and their political connections.

The view of the world is defined locally for individuals living in poverty. They are aware of their immediate surroundings, the community in which they live, the state, maybe even the region..but beyond that they are unaware. Beyond their community, state, and region, the middle class pay attention to what is happening at a national level and how it pertains to them. While travel for those in poverty remains localized, travel in the middle class is mainly within the United States. The world for the wealthy is viewed in international terms, they stay abreast of world happenings and politics, they pay close attention to world events, and they travel beyond the United States.

Due to the lack of verbal skills and the lack of knowledge in how to negotiate and compromise, violent crimes are higher amongst those living in poverty. Those in poverty tend to live from one crisis to the next and physical means are used in seeking immediate resolution. Respect amongst peers is earned according to one’s ability to defend themselves physically. Those living in middle class discourage physical fighting; they have been taught how to compromise and negotiate in order to get that which they seek. Further down the spectrum, the wealthy use social inclusion – or exclusion – as a means of solving social problems. They spend money on lawyers, and other professionals, to obtain what they want. They often use backdoor tactics in order to remain out of the line of fire. Rarely, are white collar crimes about violence.


Working with those in poverty can be difficult and near impossible if we don’t understand the mindset and the reasoning behind their actions. Becoming familiar with the hidden rules of class is one small step in understanding this population. Every individual, as well as every organization, brings with them the following three things: resources, relationships, and hidden rules. The success of the involvement is based on how well these pieces mesh together. Armed with the knowledge of poverty mindsets and the hidden rules of class, government officials and agency staff can implement strategies that reduce stereotypes, opening the door for relationship building and trust. Achievement on the job is determined by the employee’s ability to “fit in” and be productive in the work environment (Payne & Krabill, The Golden Keys of Economic Realities, 2002). Businesses familiar with the hidden rules of class can communicate more effectively with their staff, and they have better tools with which to gauge employee ability. Additionally, school personnel can better engage with their students and tailor curriculum to meet individual needs.

We would like to propose a meeting with city and county officials to detail some of Dr. Payne’s specific strategies. Upon consensus we suggest proceeding with the following steps: ( Set up a meeting with stakeholders (government officials, educators, law enforcement, agency personnel, to provide an overview of Dr Payne’s work, and how it can lead our community to economic stability and our residents on the path toward self-sufficiency

( Bring “Bridges out of Poverty” workshops to the community

( Develop a community plan

( Develop a team of certified trainers to help spread the “Bridges out of Poverty” concepts

( Implement a series of “Getting Ahead” workshops

( Develop a steering committee to support “Getting Ahead” graduates, and to develop, monitor, and evaluate the initiative

( Examine additional programs of benefit, such as Dr. Payne’s school programs

By taking action now, the children of Jefferson County have a fighting chance to overcome the obstacles brought about by generational poverty. By being armed with the necessary tools, the parents of these children can learn self-sufficiency and succeed in today’s middle class, thereby setting an example. Poverty is a cycle similar to abuse, and at some point the cycle HAS TO STOP. This is an opportunity for Jefferson County to lead the way in the battle against poverty and to set an example for surrounding communities.

Works Cited

About aha!Process. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2011, from aha!Process:

About Ruby K Payne, Ph.D. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2011, from ahaprocess:

County Data Files. (2010, November). Retrieved May 27, 2011, from Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon: (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2011, from

Indiana-Based Getting Ahead Program Sees Strong Movement Toward Reducing Poverty's Grip. (2008, May). From Research to Practice . Saint Joseph County: aha! Process, Inc.

Payne, R. K. (1996, March 2). Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty. Instructional Leader .

Payne, R. K., DeVol, P. E., & Smith, T. D. (2001). Bridges out of Poverty, Strategies for Professionals and Communities. Highlands, Tx: aha!Process.

Register, F. (2011, January 20). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved May 17, 2011, from

School Improvement Model. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2011, from aha! Process Inc:

University, O. S. (n.d.). Oregon Agriculture & County Information System. Retrieved May 18, 2011, from OSU Oregon State University:

[1] In 2005, the Central Oregon Partnership reorganized their mission and focus. With entirely new staff and a change in process, continuing Dr Payne’s work lost momentum.


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