Poverty has always been with us from beggars outside the gates of Jerusalem to the mentally ill homeless woman in the park. America is known for our huge difference in culture and class. This is due partly to the dynamics behind the political decisions of this country. The president himself admits that America is more unequal than it’s been since the great depression and many of his own supporters say he has failed. America now has, by many standards, the lowest social mobility of all of the high-end countries, meaning that a child born into poverty is likely to grow up as a poor adult. This is surprising for a country that not only prides itself as being a middle class society, but as the society where anyone can make it and where social mobility is so high. In some places now, it is hard to believe that America is an economic giant. “One in four young children lives in poverty in the richest nation on earth.” (Kindle, 2012) This is a fact that goes unnoticed by most Americans. Poverty in America has become a circular phenomenon and it has been shown to affect certain communities while it breezes by others.
The Poverty Line
“Some 46 million Americans live in poverty. That is the third highest poverty rate among developed nations, ahead only of Turkey and Mexico.” (Kindle, 2012) We might then ask, what is poverty? Where is the poverty line? For 63% of Americans, ages 16 and over, working is a necessity. From working entry level jobs in retail and fast food, jobs in manufacturing and farming, to banking and health care. These similarities, however, end there. This becomes quite apparent especially when it comes to hours worked and their compensation. For example, the average entry level wage in New Mexico is $8.02 an hour or $16,673 a year, before taxes. As opposed to an experienced worker or a college educated one, $22.93 an hour or $47,692 a year. This is lower than the national level of $17,867 annual for an entry level job and $66,248 for the experienced and educated. Unfortunately there are some that work as many hours and are paid less. Since 1938, there has been a federal law requiring employers to pay their employees a minimum wage. It was 25 cents. (Williamson, 1980) In 1938, the gap between nominal wages and real wages was quite wide compared to now where they are fairly close to each other and it is predicted they will mirror each other in the near future. Currently in California, the state minimum is $8.00, which is not a lot considering the rising cost of food, housing, and energy.
According to 2008 Federal Poverty Guidelines, a family of 4 making $21,200 before taxes is considered to be poor. (Iceland, 2012) There are social programs that are set up to help people in this predicament; however, it does not help them get out of the circumstance. “The average food stamp benefit is $21 per week.” (Kindle, 2012) This is not nearly enough to support your average American. The aid programs are set up to get the poor by on a day to day basis and are not set up to improve their social mobility. There should be money spent on programs that allow those in poverty to improve their education and careers. What makes people poor? Is it lack of opportunities? Is it lack of education and skills training? Is racism and sexism? There are a wide variety of opinions on why people are poor. There is a sense of ignorance when bringing to attention the issue to those unaffected. Those that are unaffected could help but they do not know which way will help not only with the poor today but to decrease the poverty in the future. What is surprising is that a lack of education opportunities is often mentioned as reasons for poverty.
According to the US department of education, 9.3% of the 37 million students ages 16-24 are high school drop outs. This is ironic considering that public high school is available to all. It seems creating jobs is the consensus and it makes sense especially when you look at the unemployment rate. Nationally the unemployment rate is 6.1%. What is the reason for this number? The loss of non government jobs, mainly in the manufacturing sector. This had a domino effect to other businesses like retail and construction. In the past years, we’ve heard how the economy is on the verge of collapse and this is the worst since the great depression of the 1930s. (Ross, 1967) We have a long way before we are in a depression. In 1935 the unemployment rate was the highest at 24.9% in 1959 it was 5.5% the highest since that time was at 1982 at 10.8% We are not close to another depression but we do have extreme poverty amongst us.
Poverty in America has been rapidly growing in the past decade because of poor political decisions. There is an extreme divide between the social classes in America. Most people belong to the 99%. The 1% is some of the richest people in the word and has cornered the market. They own 1/3 of US net worth. The US has over 400 billionaires, which is the most in the world. (GAO, 2007) Lack of money is not the reason for the extreme poverty rates in America, greed is. There is definitely enough money to go around the US multiple times but no one wants to help those in need. There is this sense of survival of the fittest that is an ongoing theme when looking into poverty here.
Race and Class Segregation
America is deeply divided. We can agree that poverty is more pervasive among minorities, children, female-headed families and people with less education. It has been shown through true statistics that there is a definite inequality between race and class when dealing with poverty in America. But why is American poverty still colored in the twenty-fifth century? Neighborhoods that are organized around work where significant percentage of the adults is working are significantly different from neighborhoods that are jobless, which are neighborhoods that include a significant percentage of people that are not working. Jobless neighborhoods are a lot more dangerous because they create and breed other problems like crime, gang formation, and drug trafficking. (Iceland, 2012) This leads back to the continuing issue with America’s lack of social mobility. It seems that once one person is in poverty, it becomes a vicious cycle and no one is willing to do anything to help. That’s why poverty is passed down to the same races and the same classes because they get stuck in that predicament. There are 50 million Americans without health insurance. (Iceland, 2012) This does not help our problem with poverty. America is a country that deals with problems as they come and never with preventing them. Those that are born into a poor family almost always end up the head of a poor family. This fact has shaped America and has almost made it impossible for those that are born into less fortunate homes.
Dealing with Poverty
The facts are as stands; if a person was to walk down the streets in any which neighborhood in America, 1 out of every 6 people passed could be living in poverty. This issue is rarely talked about for these outstanding numbers. Each year the number of poverty in America goes up. The new poor are the former middle class, and the middle class is disintegrating. There are becoming only two classes; a lower class and a higher class. Bottom line; America needs to reverse the cycle. Through education and assistance programs, America will be able to close the gap between the two classes. Recent unemployment rates have dropped slightly and the economy is showing some signs of growth but only some Americans are gaining from it. Almost a million American children sometimes go hungry and tent cities are springing up across the country. The world’s economic power house has a sickness. While both sides blame each other, America cannot fully admit their poverty, and are certainly not dealing with it.
Iceland, JohnPoverty in America: A Handbook, with a 2012 Preface. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2012. This book allowed me to understand better poverty in America. It focuses on early views of poverty in America and where the poverty in America originated. This book also describes the causes and characteristics of poverty as well as why poverty remains high in America. I chose this book so that I would have a timeline of poverty from the beginning as well as poverty now. I would be able to compare and contrast the social and economical times between then and now. I will compare the different ethnicities in America and compare the different ways that they have been affected by poverty over the years.
Kindle, Peter A. “Book Review of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America by Peter Edelman Edelman, Peter. 2012. So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America. New York: The New Press. $24.95, 208 Pp., Hardcover. ISBN: 978-1-59558-785-5.” Poverty & Public Policy 4.4 (2012): 241-43. Print. This is a journal that gave me facts about poverty in America. I was able to link the problems with true statistics and use them in my paper. I found this journal to be very helpful when deliberating what should be in my paper and not. It was easier to read than the books and really got me interested in the topic.
Ross, Arthur M., and Herbert Hill. Employment, Race, and Poverty. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967. Print. This book talks about the employment, race, and poverty in America and gives me statistics that are quotable for my paper. It is important to figure out how all these three aspect tie together and it allows me to relate race to poverty in America. This books also paints a picture of what it is like to be unemployed, a minority, and in poverty in America throughout many decades. I will use this source to also explain the unemployment issue and how the unemployed got to where they are and how it affects their families. I will talk about the vicious cycle of the unemployed and how it will almost always be passed down to their children and what other types of issues (jail time, drug dealing, etc) are caused because of the unemployment of certain classes.
“The Other America, 2012: Confronting the Poverty Epidemic | The Nation.” The Other America, 2012: Confronting the Poverty Epidemic | The Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2014. This site helped me to form my conclusion. It allowed me to formulate my thoughts and wrap up my ideas. I was able to see how other people looked at poverty and what their stance was on the issue. I also used this site to add some facts to my paper and get more of an emotional effect with my word play.
United States. Government Accountability Office. Poverty in America: Economic Research Shows Adverse Impacts on Health Status and Other Social Conditions as Well as the Economic Growth Rate: Report to Congressional Requesters. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2007. Economic research suggests that people living in poverty face an increased risk of adverse outcomes, such as poor health and criminal activity, both of which may lead to reduced participation in the labor market. It also shows that limited access to health care as well as a greater exposure to environmental hazards affects the heath of those living in poverty. I will use this book to examine the effects that poverty has on issues like health, social conditions, and growth rate. The previous book allowed me to examine exactly what poverty is and this book will allow me to see the affects the poverty has had over time. I would like to go over the economic growth rate and see what ethnicities have suffered the most and which have substantially improved, if any.
Williamson, Jeffrey G., and Peter H. Lindert. American Inequality: A Macroeconomic History. New York: Academic, 1980. Print. This book solely focuses on the history of the inequality of class and race in America. The information found in this book will start my paper off with facts about how the poverty came to be what it is today. American inequality is highlighted in this book and we are able to see where the inequality started and how it is currently affecting America. It is important to explain the macroeconomic history of America for the readers to get an idea of how the inequality in America originally started
I. Thesis: I changed the focus of my thesis to relate more to the lack of social mobility in my paper. I felt that it was the basis of my paper and what I was most interested in. My thesis originally was not very powerful but after using Pearson’s writing guide I was able to change my words around and create more of a strong stance.
II. Organization: My paper was completely unorganized. It is hard for me to organize my thoughts and to better blend my ideas. I had to make index cards and organize them that way in order to figure out the best order of my ideas.
III. Support and Development of Ideas: Adding quotes helped better support my ideas. It added facts to what I already had and also helped with smoothing out my ideas.
IV. Style: I changed the style of my paper from MLA to APA. I had never done a paper in APA but it made sense to use this format because we were told to include an abstract and an author’s note which followed the guidelines of an APA style paper. It was different but it turned out to look a lot cleaner than the MLA. V. Mechanics: Using the Pearson writing components really helped develop my paper. I knew what to focus on and what was unimportant in the process. I tried to make the issue clear by painting a picture with my words to help better understand the points I was trying to make.