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Community Action Poverty Simulation

Marketplace on National Public Radio: Story on a Poverty Simulation in California

 Poverty Simulation


Poverty Simulation
Kit Order Forms

The Community Action Poverty Simulation (CAPS) is a unique tool that community action agencies are able to use to educate everyone, from policy makers to local community leaders, about the day to day realities of life with a shortage of money and an abundance of stress. 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.

During a simulation, participants role-play the lives of low-income families, from single parents trying to care for their children to senior citizens trying to maintain their self sufficiency on Social Security. The task of each family is to provide food, shelter and other basic necessities during the simulation while interacting with various community resources staffed by low-income volunteers.

Although it uses "play" money and other props, fictional scenarios, and time limits, CAPS is not a game. It is a simulation tool that enables participants to view poverty from different angles in an experiential setting, while empowering low-income volunteers by allowing them an opportunity to interact with leaders from their community.

Each CAPS kit is all-inclusive and reusable.  It comes in a large, convenient storage container on wheels and is yours to keep and use as many times as you want.  Each kit contains:

  • DIRECTOR'S MANUAL: Instructions on how to run a simulation, sample invitation letter and news release, facts about poverty, suggestion about what people can do to impact policy. 

  • RESOURCE PACKETS: Instructions and accessories for each community resource, including welfare office, pawn shop, school, bank, police station, grocery store.  Accessories include calculators, clip boards, money boxes, play money, homework, Social Security cards, name badges, forms. 

  • FAMILY PACKETS: There are 26 family packets, each with a family scenario and accessories, including play money, appliance cards and transportation passes. 

  • COMPACT DISC: Contains PDF files of all materials so lost items can be reprinted.


Poverty Simulation Brochure

Professional Publications

Teaching Sociology:  
Doing Poverty:  Learning Outcomes among Students Participating in the Community Action Poverty Simulation Program


Journal of Youth Development:  Using Poverty Simulation for College Students: A Mixed-Methods Evaluation

Public Health NursingEnhancing Nursing Students' Understanding of Poverty through Simulation

YouTube Video of different Poverty Simulations

Community Action Association of Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Social Venture Partners

Westmoreland Human Opportunities

Poverty Simulations take approximately 3 hours to run.  This includes orientation, the four- 15 minute weeks, and a debriefing period at the end of the simulation.  The maximum number of participants is 88 (80 if using dolls to replace the 1 and 3 year old roles). The minimum number should be no less than 40 participants.  The simulation will also need 15-20 resource volunteers to be at the resource tables.  A large room (3,000 square feet) is needed to conduct a full simulation. 

 For more information click here or call (573) 634-2969



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Missouri Association for Community Action - 2014 William Street, Jefferson City, Missouri 65109 - Phone: (573) 634-2969 - Fax: (573) 636-9440
United in purpose, the Missouri Community Action Network will inspire and engage people so that all families and communities thrive.