Poverty in America
Poverty is a major social problem affecting people all over the world particularly in the developing countries. America is a rich country, but that does not mean that it is free from the effects of poverty. Close to an eighth of the American population is living in poverty. Poverty is an open term that can be defined from various perspectives. However, a more general definition of the term is that it is a financial situation in which individuals cannot acquire essential needs such as food clothing, shelter, health services or education due to of adequate income. The state of poverty renders individuals helpless and denies them representation and choice in the society. Regardless of America’s global position in terms of wealth, the country still has a significant percentage of its citizens living in poverty.
When talking about people living in poverty, one is likely to think of the people living impoverished lives in poor conditions. However, America’s perspective of poverty is slightly distinct from the general definition. Therefore, what is he definition of poverty according to American measurements (Iceland 20). According to the American government, poverty is income that is below the poverty line. Individuals whose earnings drop below this threshold are considered as living in poverty. For the year 2015, the poverty threshold was $12,331 per annum for individuals below 65 years and $11,367 per year for those above 65 years this figures, however, increases with the family size unit with the figure for a family of eight members reaching $45,822 per year (U.S. Census Bureau). The poverty threshold is particularly used in the United States to measure poverty; however, the mechanism is not precise since it only shows the individuals whose earnings fall below the threshold line but does indicate to what length they go below the poverty line. That is, the extent of the poverty of the people considered as poor. The U.S. Census Bureau considers those who lack the necessities required for survival (U.S. Census Bureau).
Poverty affects the nation’s economy since it upsets human capital growth, that is, health professional experience and education. Theoretically, the human capital is the primary driver of the country’s economy. Therefore, poverty affects as well as thrives on the individuals’ lack of health, job experience and education. An uneducated and unhealthy workforce is very damaging to the economy (Poverty, 5). The poverty among the Americans is threatening the well-being of the people and subsequently the country’s economy since it reduces the participation of the laborers, increases the chances of environmental hazards exposure and engagement in risky or illegal behaviors so as to cope with the increased stress levels.
The U.S. Census Bureau in 2014 conducted that indicated that over 37 million American citizens live in poverty. This is approximately, “ 12 percent of the United States population living below the poverty threshold” (U.S. Census Bureau). The results indicated that the poverty rates have increased significantly over the last four decades. Contrary to the media reports showing that most of those living in poverty are the inner-city minorities, approximately 46 percent of those living below the poverty threshold are white Americans (U.S. Census Bureau). The minority groups are often used when referring to poverty particularly because the disproportionately high rates of poverty among them. Even though 46 percent of the people living under the poverty line are whites, it is only 10 percent of the majority group. The blacks represent 21 percent of the people living under the poverty line while the Hispanics represent 23 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau research findings.
The population of the poverty-stricken is growing younger in the recent decades compared to the old days. The last two decades have seen more increase in poverty among the children of ages 18 years and below compared to any other age group (Ron & Swahill, 1). The children today constitute up to 36 percent of the individuals living below the poverty threshold. Compared to the other post-industrial countries around the globe, the United States has the highest number of children aged six and below living in poverty. Most of these children are those living with their families but in poverty while the rest of them are those living in the streets (Maume 26). Glasmeier in his report says, “Up to 60 percent of the poor people in the United States live in the urban centers, 25 percent live in the rural areas, and the remaining 15 percent live in the suburban areas (3).”
Several factors contribute to poverty among the American population. Most commonly observed causes of poverty include the lack of education, lack of employment, isolation from the social activities, stereotyping and over population. Other causes of poverty are drug and substance abuse, lose of employment that can be as a result of various factors such as economic depression. This paper will discuss four of the primary causes of poverty in the United States.
Lack of job is the number one cause of poverty among the American population, particularly the minority groups. A significant number of the minority groups lack adequate education, therefore, lack sufficient skills that can enable them secure employment. A high school diploma used to be very considerable in the past with regard to the American job market. However, due to a large number of individuals attaining higher education diplomas, the job market has responded by raising its standards and qualifications. This means that most of the Americans from poor backgrounds are locked out of employment opportunities with good remunerations because of their inability to afford higher education. The poor can only get casual jobs which are often followed with insufficient benefits. Such situations have the effect of driving the poor deeper into poverty especially if they have a family to raise. For instance, and individual with a high school diploma earns a proximately 28,000 dollars per year (Pandrey 327). This illustrates a direct correlation between education and poverty. It implies that the rich can attain a good education and good jobs while poverty remains because they cannot afford a good education continuously increasing the gap between the poor and the rich in the American society.
The American economy has been experiencing challenges in the recent years leading to various adjustments. One of the effects of an economy under turbulence is massive loss of jobs. Because of the economic pressures, several employers are forced to cut down on the number of their employees or in worst cases close down. Other employers have shipped their operations to foreign countries where there is an affordable labor compared to the American market all these decisions made by the employers lead to losses of jobs for the American population, thus, contributing to poverty (Joan, 33). Similarly, the American labor market can supply far much more labor than the market requires. Therefore, it becomes difficult to secure jobs in the American market because of a large number of people competing for the limited opportunities. Due to the large supply of labor, the employers lower their remuneration (Edelman, 4). The rates of poverty are expected to increase in the following years as the unemployment crisis is continuously rising. Approximately 15 million qualified Americans are unemployed (Poverty in the United States). The figure only represents the individuals with the ability to work. However, these individuals have families who depend on them making the situation graver. The situation pushes the families into poverty and in some cases homelessness.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a major cause of poverty among the American population. The issue of drug abuse is a contributing factor to poverty since some of the users’ lives become dominated by drugs. As a result, the people get too addicted; they end up spending their money on the purchase of the drugs. The use of drugs is most common among the lower class of the society. According to Goelz (28), the lower class members live in the urban ghettos where drug peddling is rampant. The drug addiction often drives the users from the lower class into poverty due to the expenses of the drugs. For instance, a gram of cocaine costs roughly $100, if an individual were to purchase at least one gram on a daily basis, it would translate to $700 per week. 700 dollars is more than what most Americans take home on a weekly basis. The using other drugs like heroine may have to spend several thousands weekly (Akerlof & Kranton, 14).
The case of stereotype and discrimination is particularly applicable to the minority groups. It is sometimes difficult for members of the ethnic groups to secure jobs in certain institutions due to stereotypic behavior or discrimination (Glasmeier, 70). Some members of the white population still see the members of the minority groups, particularly the black minority, as only fit for casual labor while the best jobs should be reserved for the whites. Because of such stereotypic behavior, the minority groups cannot fairly compete with the white majority in the job market. This has a negative economic impact on them since they cannot acquire the best-paying jobs as their white counterparts. As a result, they are unable to drive themselves out of poverty.
Poverty affects all the levels of the society either directly or indirectly (Pimpare, 7). That is from that individual living in the impoverished conditions to the political representatives of the country who attempts to issue a solution. Among the major effects of poverty include:
Health is one of the major and immediate effects of poverty. Health issues related to poverty include access to health care, diseases, and reduced life expectancy. Due to the inability to maintain healthy surroundings, opportunistic diseases and other health related diseases are common among the poor. The lack of resources does not allow them to purchase nutritious or healthy foodstuffs hence their bodies have reduced abilities to fight infections. Despite the prevalence of diseases among the poor, they do not have the resources to access proper health care.
Child mortality and life expectancy are significantly influenced by poverty. Statistics indicate that the life expectancy of the impoverished individuals can be up to 30 years lower than that of the wealthy people. Child mortality is also higher among the poor people compare to their rich counterparts.
The impoverished individuals tend to halt their education from very early ages. This may result due to the families’ inability to buy requirements for education such as stationery or cover the tuition fees (Kneebone & Berube, 57). The literacy rate among the poor people is much lower compared to the rich, particularly the whites. This results in a circle that cannot be easily broken, i.e. lack of good education prevent the individuals from escaping poverty whereas poverty prevents them from obtaining a good education.
Poverty has both direct and indirect effect on the society. Poverty may lead to homelessness and street life. To satisfy their daily livelihoods, those living in poverty may be forced to involve themselves in criminal acts. There are increased chances of social unrest due to the increased stress levels as a result of poverty that is more likely to create problematic situations in the society (Kowalski, 63). Poverty affects the whole society; therefore, America should strive to improve its poverty situation.
The first step that the government of the United States should take is to empower the people living in poverty through education. The government should ensure that the education is made affordable to the poor if not free. This will enable them obtain skills relevant to the American job market and be absorbed into the well-paying jobs similar to their counterparts. The government should provide the people living in poverty with adequate but affordable medical care since health is the most important step towards development. Similarly, the government should increase the amount of the food stamps to enable the people live more comfortably and increase the number of people living in poverty who can access it (Edelman 12).
Even though America is the world’s top super power, a significant percentage of its population still live in abject poverty. Several reasons such as lack of education contribute to the state of poverty witnessed among the American population. Poverty affects every social level in the country and greatly impacts the country’s economy. For this reason, the government of the United States needs to work towards the reduction of poverty by empowering the impoverished through education.
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