Jacob Riis, a journalist and photographer during the Reform Movement, wrote a book called The Battle with the Slum describing the terrible conditions of the slums and it’s negative effects. In his book he says, “When common sense and the golden rule obtain among men as a rule of practice, it will be over.” If everyone complies with the golden rule, to “treat others the way you would like to be treated,” slums will no longer exist and each person would be treated with respect. This will happen because slums are created by how society treats individuals. For example, there are many restrictions on the urban poor which make it extremely difficult for them to climb out by themselves. They have a hard time finding jobs with a decent income, and because of this, they become stuck in poverty. As everyone follows the golden rule, problems like society’s unequal social structure, unfair opportunities, and laws restricting lower class citizens from moving to the suburbs would be eliminated, and slums will vanish.
One of the main reasons for poverty and slums is the way society is structured. The division of classes makes it extremely difficult to get out of poverty and eliminate it as a whole. Inequality plays a large role in this, as the upper class receives more benefits and opportunities than someone in poverty. As Shervin Assari says from The Conversation, “Some societal issues, such as racism, sexism and segregation, constantly cause disparities in education, employment and income for marginalized groups. The majority group naturally has a head start, relative to groups that deal with a wide range of societal barriers on a daily basis.” Not everyone has the same start in life, whether it was their own fault or not. The social structure creates barriers which most people in poverty can not overcome, keeping them stuck in slums. As adults look for jobs, people in poverty are not usually as educated as someone who is upper or middle class, making them less qualified. They also do not have many resources when searching for jobs, making it even harder to become employed. This leads to the fact that the children of these different social classes are going to have different opportunities as well. Parents in poverty are not as economically stable, and even sometimes they can hardly attain the bare necessities like food. Children who have parents with successful jobs have an advantage on resources over a kid living in slums such as good schools and healthy, sizable meals. Wealthy families can also have their children participate in extracurricular activities which teach them important ideas and skills. This gives them an early advantage on life over the kids in poverty because they do not have the money for it. The social structure is only one of many problems keeping low income parents and adults in poverty.
Residents who want to move out of slums have a difficult time for two main reasons, the first being their low incomes can not afford it. According to Professor Edelman from The New York Times, 15 percent of America’s population, around 46 million people, are considered poor. Out of them, 20.5 million earn incomes below half the poverty line. This income is not enough to support themselves and their families, leading to the sacrifice of necessities such as a nice place to live in, in exchange for a slum. The second reason is that the government makes restrictions prohibiting the ones who could pay an affordable rent. From The Atlantic, Alana Semuels states, “Many wealthy suburbs passed zoning ordinances that prohibited the construction of affordable-housing units or the construction of apartment buildings in general.” Zoning ordinances are laws that specify what land can be used for different purposes. This means that the state governments are purposely creating laws to limit affordable housing in cities. Some state governments also have laws created stating a minimum square footage or stating all houses must be detached. By making housing too expensive for low income families, the government makes it extremely difficult for people to climb out of poverty. These people will continue to stay in misery due to the lack of help from the upper and middle class citizens.
Many people believe that poverty exists because of irresponsibility and laziness, however that is not always the situation. One could argue that it is the individual’s fault that he found himself in poverty, and it is his responsibility to escape it. Depending on the circumstance, yes, someone could be in poverty because of something they did, but it could also happen because of a previous family member, leaving them with no choice but to be born into it. Whether it is their fault or not, they are still stuck in poverty. Slums are created because the people in them are disregarded and rejected by society. We should be helping the less fortunate improve their lives instead of ignoring their problems.
If society treated the people living in slums well and everyone followed the golden rule, slums will be eliminated from urban life. Single parents and other adults in poverty do not have the money to have decent housing, and with the little money they make they can only afford a cramped musty space. Because the majority of the upper and middle classes do not believe people in poverty are a relevant part of their lives, they do not care what happens to the poor. However, if the golden rule is applied, everyone would be equally respected and the wealthy would help the poor out of slums. This would come about because no one would want to live in the terrible conditions of the slums, so the wealthy would give lower class citizens an education and jobs. They would accept these jobs and try to learn because they have already experienced what it is like to be in poverty and want a better life out of slums. Because no one wants to live in such poor conditions, the slums would be overall improved. The buildings would be repaired to have a better living space, the air would be cleaner by fixing the sewer system and figuring out a way to remove all the daily waste produced. As these along with many more problems are gradually repaired, everyone will have the ability to live comfortably.
As shown, problems with poverty like inequality between social classes and overpriced housing will disappear if everyone follows the golden rule. Because poverty is a man-made idea, it can be fixed when everyone cooperates with each other. If the rich are willing to teach, and the poor are willing to learn, the golden rule will be applied and we will slowly win the battle with the slums.