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Problem of Poverty in America

Updated October 30, 2021
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Problem of Poverty in America essay

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Though we have made improvements throughout our history, there is still a significant number of Americans living in poverty. To fully grasp this social problem, we must look at statistics that show just how much our world is struggling. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent data, 12.3% of America is living in poverty. That’s 39.7 million people (Fontenot, 2018). That’s just looking at the United States, poverty is an issue worldwide. According to Clean Water, Poverty Cycle, 10.9% of the world is living in poverty (Clean Water, Poverty Cycle, 2018). This has been an ongoing issue for a long time and with these numbers still being so high, it’s important we remain conscious of these rates.

This is not to undermine the fact that we have successfully improved the poverty rates historically. From 1959 until 2017, the poverty rate has decreased roughly 10% (Clean Water, Poverty Cycle, 2018). Social security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare/Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, and Unemployment Insurance are some of the major anti-poverty programs in the United States. We have made progress in education, equality among genders, maternal health, environmental health and child mortality rates (United Nations, 2015.) All of these factors contribute to global poverty rates and if we continue to make these improvements we may see it fall even more. If we don’t, then the hungry will remain hungry, children will continue to not get an education, people will continue dying, and our environment will continue to worsen.

Poverty is a social problem, and in my opinion it is not a debate. As mentioned before, it impacts almost all aspects of our life. We have children not getting a primary education because their parents cannot afford it. There are children dying because they can’t receive vaccinations and adults because they also can’t fight off diseases (such as HIV or malaria). Our environment is also being affected by defecation, which affects water contamination and sanitation levels. This is only a few examples, but as we can see a rather big part of our world faces these threats. Though we have seen advancements, it’s not enough. There are many reasons why poverty persists and some examples are a lack of recourses, a fluctuating economy, a lack of education and overpopulation. Extreme weather can also cause poverty by destroying homes and putting more people on the streets.

But why should the non-poor care about the poor? One of the issues in our society is that some people blame them and think their poorness is deserved. When in fact, there are several misconceptions involved with this. I would say the most common one is that they are lazy. It’s not that they aren’t trying to get a job, they are. In fact, according to the Social Work Degree Center, “In 2010, more than 10.6 million people in poverty were part of the “working poor” group” (2014). Even when they do get a job, it would take a decent amount of money to get them off the street and into a place that they can afford. On top of the high unemployment rate, they face many other disparities such as injuries or illness that they can’t afford to treat. These put them at many disadvantages, one being when they are applying for jobs. For example, say you have a person of middle-class with perfect health and someone from the poverty level who is limping apply for a position in the work-force.

After taking in appearance and looking at resumes, who do you think is going to get hired first? If you said the poor person then you must have a very genuine heart, but I think we know that is probably unrealistic with the inequality we have in our world. So, in this scenario it is not the people in poverty who are to blame, it is us. We are taking away their opportunity’s and putting them at a disadvantage when they already have nothing. What if that poor person is a veteran who came out of war with an injury, a teen who got kicked out of their house at their parents’ discretion because they are homosexual or got pregnant, or a woman who escaped domestic violence? The truth is, we don’t know the real story. Are they lazy? Maybe. Have they tried to get a job? Who knows. What we can do is be aware of the fact that they could have simply been born into it, or are facing another factor that is keeping them on the streets. They are not always to blame.

Back to the original question, why should we care? If it isn’t enough to want to help someone else’s life, then maybe looking at it in a broader spectrum will show how our world is negatively impacted by this rate of poverty. When poverty increases so do a lot of other things. One for example, is crime. Those who are deprived of certain things resort to desperate measures to get them, such as burglary or illegal occupations. Something as simple as drinking alcohol publically contributes to the local crime rates. Crystal Lombardo says it perfectly in her article, “When there are zero opportunities, an individual will make their own opportunities and that will usually be through crime” (Lombardo, 2017). This puts not only the poor in danger but the rest of society around them.

Poverty is also very well linked to illness with the three most common diseases being HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (Rees, 2015). This puts everyone around them at risk and has been shown to cause disease outbreaks. Imagine how fast airborne diseases such as tuberculosis can spread. Linked to this is the pollution in our environment. Due to a lack of recourses, the areas populated by the poor become dirty and unsuitable from the buildup of trash and other contaminants. Economic activities impact the quality of the things we consume, including the water we drink and the food we eat. This doesn’t just impact the poor, it affects all of us. It’s in the air, water, and all over our land.

One last example of how poverty affects us is the immigration levels. People are fleeing their countries to improve their living conditions. This is happening with Mexicans and Latin Americans entering the Unites States, as well as people from Africa and Asia entering Europe. This is how overpopulation occurs and jobs are taken away from the citizens of each country. It’s like a never-ending loop; people enter the country illegally, find a job, putting someone else out of a job, increasing crime and increasing the rate of the poor. Hopefully these points convince you that we should care, for all our sakes.

I believe there are several ways to reduce the poverty rates. The important thing is to start young, this means ensuring children get an education. The government needs to step in and improve the school system. This means providing more affordable schools for the lower class, hiring qualified teachers and providing recourses to meet a student’s needs. If we increase the amount of educated people in the world, income and economic growth will increase with it. Having an education is extremely important because it provides people with essential skills needed to further their career. If we have people dropping out of school to get a job and help support their family, they’re putting their own future at risk.

Another factor is that we must be providing them with an adequate education, otherwise the schooling is pointless. That’s why qualified teachers and a suitable school is needed. The next part of this would be to provide more well-paying jobs and increase the employment levels. Creating jobs through something like infrastructure can give people the opportunity to escape being broke. But it’s more than just the money, I think having a job also gives people structure. You have a responsibility and something to hold you accountable. It teaches you essential skills that you need to know in life and provides you with a foundation to continue to excel. If you want to make it to the top and be paid the big bucks, you have to start low and build yourself up. Not only does a job strongly benefit yourself but also the community, you are a providing a service that benefits the economy and life around you.

Right now, we are facing multiple barriers against improving poverty rates. Our income level has remained stagnant and inequality is still at a very high level. The middle class is falling and the lower class/poor is stuck. One of the issues is that the rich hold the power and it appears they are not inclined to help anyone but themselves. According to the Federal Reserve, “the wealth share of the top 1 percent climbed from 36.3 percent in 2013 to 38.6 percent in 2016” (Federal Reserve, 2017). The gap is widening continuously between the rich and everyone else. With the poor wanting to remain at the top and the middle class now wanting to give up their jobs, it would be difficult to provide more employment for the poor. In this economy, everyone is worried about themselves and forgetting about the people in desperate need. This is a huge social and political barrier that we need to overcome.

If we stop referring to them as the poor and instead remember that they are people, we may be able to get a better control on inequality. This means recognizing the problems they face every day such as sanitation levels, getting a proper education, trying to find a job, illnesses, etc. Imagine being a child born disadvantaged, a man who goes bankrupt treating an injury, a woman who loses her job because the place she works at went out of business, or being a part of a family who loses their home due to a hurricane. If you were in that spot wouldn’t you want someone to help you? If we help the people in need, our community as a whole will strive through the domino effect. This is going to sound extremely cliché, but together we can make a difference. If the lower class continues to fight for the betterment of their lives and if we provide them with more opportunities, we may be able to further improve the issue of poverty.

Problem of Poverty in America essay

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