Poverty Simulation

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is a unique tool that can be used to educate everyone, from policy makers to local community leaders, about the typical day to day strategies of a low-income family trying to survive, day to day, with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. It is a simulation, not a game.  The object is to sensitize participants to the hardships faced by real people. In post-experience surveys, over 85% of participants reported an above average or high level of increased knowledge about the financial pressures faced by low-income families in meeting basic needs.


The experience lasts approximately three hours.  It includes an introduction and briefing, the actual simulation exercise, and a debriefing period at the end of the simulation, in which A MINIMUM of 25 participants and 19 volunteer staffers share their feelings and experiences and talk about what they have learned about the lives of people in poverty. 

The simulation must be conducted in a large room where participants will be assigned a "family" to join in the center.  Around the perimeter are tables representing community resources and services for the families.  These services include a bank, super center, Community Action Agency, employer, utility company, pawn broker, grocery, school, and more. Participants assume the roles of different families facing poverty.  Some families are newly unemployed, some are recently deserted by the "breadwinner," some are homeless, while still others are grandparents raising their grandchildren.  

The task of the participant "families" is to provide for basic necessities, shelter, transportation and education during the course of four 15-minute "weeks." Participants say:  

"This exercise changed my preconceived notions about low income families. I now have an understanding of how stressful life can be for families living in poverty. Without living in poverty myself, I could never completely understand it before this." 

"My role was a child with special needs. I felt what it was like to be ignored in school and at home. It was frustration beyond my imagination." 

"This simulation quickly creates a real feeling of anxiety and a sense of urgency to get things under control." 

For more information on hosting a Poverty Simulation in Kansas, click here or call 785-234-0878.

CAPS is a copyrighted tool made available by the Missouri Association for Community Action to organizations that want to promote a greater understanding of poverty.