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Poverty Simulation

Did You Know?

Arkansas has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, ranking amongst the top 10 states in the US. // (Ruzicka, 2022)

According to the Census Bureau, in 2020 alone, there were 37.2 million people in poverty, approximately 3.3 million more than in 2019, and this number only continues to grow. // (US Census Bureau, 2022)

About The Poverty Simulation

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The Community Action Poverty Simulation was created by the Missouri Community Action Network. The Community Action 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. // (MCAN, 2021)

Simulation Breakdown

The simulation is meant to emulate what it is like for low income individuals and families to live a month in poverty. The month consists of four weeks, with each week being represented by a 15 minute segment.

As the simulation begins, all participants are assigned to a family unit. Once grouped, the facilitator will direct families to review their family's individual packet, getting an idea of their family's unique circumstance so they are able to plan on how they will go about tackling their month in poverty. 

Around the room, participants will notice booths. The booth are manned by a volunteers, and are meant to represent different community resources. These resources include places such as the bank, schools, the supermarket, etc. So participants will want to get familiar with where they are, and the different function of each location.

Once the simulation has ended, a guided debriefing will take place, allowing participants and volunteers to share their experiences from the simulation.

The entire activity typically lasts about three hours. This time frame includes the introduction and debriefing by the facilitator prior to the simulation, the simulation itself, and the guided debriefing.

Volunteering Made Easy

In order to volunteer for the Community Action Poverty Simulation, you don't need experience. Before each simulation takes place, volunteer training takes place, allowing for individuals who are unfamiliar with the simulation to get comfortable in their role. The Poverty Simulation typically needs around 20 volunteers. Volunteers will be working at the various community resource booths placed around the room.

Upon arrival, volunteers will need to sign in and find their booth if already assigned. 

Each booth has a packet with instructions inside. These packets will be of great assistance for volunteers as they go through the simulation. The packets also provide information about the types of materials that should be found at each booth. If anything is missing, or if additional material is needed, not to worry, the facilitator(s) should be able to assist with getting the needed materials.


  • U Trust Us National Bank

  • Quik Cash

  • Community Action Agency

  • Interfaith Services

  • Food-A-Rama

  • Sweaney's Mortgage and Realty Company

  • Big Dave's Pawnshop

  • Realville Police Department

  • Friendly Utility Company

  • Illegal Activities Person

  • Department of Social Services

  • Realville School

  • Building Blocks Daycare

  • General Employer

  • Community Healthcare

What To Expect As A Participant

Upon arrival, each participant will be assigned to a family unit. For the duration of the simulation, participants will be taking on a specific role within the unit, navigating their role as a member of a low income family.

Before beginning the simulation, a pre-assessment will be distributed to participants. The purpose of the pre-assessment is to gain further insight into how participants perceive poverty within their own communities. These pre-assessments will need to be completed and returned to the facilitator at the end of the simulation. They may be placed within the family packet.

Once directed by the facilitator, participants will be able to freely move around the simulated city, completing tasks with the goal of making it through the month. From visits to the doctor, to shopping for groceries, participants will need to budget, plan, and work together to live their lives in their simulated roles.

Once finished, debriefing will occur, allowing participants and volunteers alike to share their experiences. A post-assessment will also be distributed to participants. The purpose of the post-assessment is to gain insight into how participants' perspectives have been changed as a result of participating in the Community Action Poverty Simulation. This assessment will need completed and will need to be returned to the facilitator at the end of the simulation. These sheets can be placed in the family packet upon completion.

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