Poverty is a disturbing but significant global concern. Just as it is for millions of other people all over the globe, poverty is occurring in America. Over the past decades, income disparity is ascending, in addition to the number of communities that failed to keep up with the national economic standard. Although poverty is present everywhere, it is more serious in developing countries, wherein one in every five person lives on not more than $1 for each day, which is the threshold being applied by the World Bank to classify poverty.
The unrelenting problem of poverty is a multifaceted one that embraces individuals and communities who, without their fault, find themselves powerless to manage in this information-intensive and constantly developing world. For the majority Americans, poverty implies destitution, or the lack of ability to provide the family with reasonable shelter, clothing, and nutritious food. Despite the fact that material destitution does exist in America, it is relatively confined in severity and scope. To be aware of poverty in America, it is necessary to observe several statistics, as well as to observe the actual living conditions of the persons that are considered poor by the government.
Overview of Poverty in America
A large numbers of the country’s population live at or below the threshold of poverty, which means payment of bills every month and financing for the essentials, consisting of shelter, clothing, and food, not counting access to health care and a number of simple comforts is a constant struggle. According to estimates in 2003, roughly 25 percent of counties in the United States had low rates of workforce participation, soaring rates of unemployment, high reliance on government transfer expenditures, and incomes that is lower than one-half of the national average or less for each person.
The Census Bureau classifies poverty as a family of three earning not more than $14,680, and not more than $9,393 for a worker without any dependent (Blanco, 2004). According to the 2003 statistics of the Census Bureau, almost 36 million Americans lived in poverty, which is 1.3 million more in 2002. Since 2000, the country has experienced an increase of 4.4 million people who lives in poverty (Blanco, 2004). According to a survey, the present American families are experiencing worse living conditions than they have in the previous years, as 10 percent of all families or approximately 7.6 million families in 2003 lived in poverty, which is an enormous ascend from the previous years (Blanco, 2004).
In 2005, the registration of the United States Census Bureau of poor individuals in the country totaled to approximately 37 million poor Americans (Rector & Johnson, 2004). Therefore, there is one in every eight Americans that is struggling with inconceivable poverty. These millions of Americans are asserted to be deficient of the necessary clothing, shelter, and enough money for the food, as well as being forced to live in unpleasant conditions (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
Common Factors of Poverty
In the concluding half of the 20th century, the three factors that are generally offered to explain movements of poverty in the United States are changes in family structure, economic inequality, and income growth. If the average per-capita incomes are increased, such as increasing wages and employment, then it is expected that poverty will generally decline. Nevertheless, economic inequality can take the edge off the overall constructive impact of income growth if lower-income workforce and unemployed citizens do not benefit from the fruits of such development. On the other hand, changes in the family structure, primarily the ever-increasing number of families headed by female may be linked with higher rates of poverty for the reason that such families are more expected to be poor and are more economically vulnerable.
I. Economic Equality
Certainly, the country has made several enhancements over the intervening decades in terms of the overall minimum living standard as measured through material conditions. Yet the living conditions of the poor individuals are severely different from that of families and individuals who take advantage of various degree of economic security as measured through income levels that provide unstressed and comfortable situations. The escalation in the number of poor individuals and families in the country ought to provide the government various apprehension, but even more upsetting is the increasing difference between the underprivileged and wealthy in America.
In the previous decades, compensation for more affluent Americans has considerably ascended, stimulated by increase in stock options, bonuses, salaries and other rewards. However, the compensation provided for millions of lower-wage workforces dropped off; and in fact, a number of them have even lost their jobs (Blanco, 2004). Therefore, this factor has prevented the advantages of economic growth from being equally drawn out.
Moreover, in 2005, non-Hispanic white men, not less than 25 years of age, holding only high-school qualification have $35,679 median income; whereas women within the same age group, need a degree in college in order to obtain a comparable median income (Spriggs, 2007). The outcome is that the households headed by female are harmed by the major earnings gap, which has a poverty rate of 31.1 percent in contrast to their male-headed household counterparts, which only had a 13.4 percent poverty rate (Spriggs, 2007). In 2005, poverty for women is excessively elevated than men, which is14.1 percent in contrast to 11.1 (Spriggs, 2007). The disparity reflects unrelenting gaps in earnings between male and female workers.
At the same time, since 1959 the median income of white males with a family of five has been higher than the poverty line, but for women with a family of three, it was only in 1990 that their median income broke beyond the poverty line (Spriggs, 2007). Further, notwithstanding the progressive structure of benefit procedure in Social Security benefits, the constant gap is best reflected in disparities in poverty among the elderly, where the lifetime earnings of women suggest they have lower assets than men.
II. Family Structure
Higher rates of poverty among women have generally been contributed to the changes in family structure. The percentage of families headed by single female with children rapidly rose over the previous decades of the 20th century, which reached 26.5 percent in 1995 from only 11.5 percent of all families with children in 1970; with higher rates for Hispanics and blacks. At the start of year 2003, roughly 26.1 percent of the entire families with children in the country were headed by single woman. A number of such families do not obtain any or adequate child support from the absent fathers of the children. It is suggested in one study that if fathers married the destitute mothers of their children, approximately three-quarters of the single-parents would instantly be elevated outside poverty status (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
Obviously, two parents in a household generally earn more than single-parent. The burden of receiving enough income to raise dependent children outside poverty additionally confronts women who are the single head of the family, as well as getting and paying for child care concurrently with their work and management of the household without help. Since this hazard confronted by women of serving non-working dependents as well as their efforts in looking after their elderly parents is not distributed by society, women who head such families are expected to obtain lower levels of education, therefore, resulting to their lower earnings. Aside from the fact that women are more expected to earn significantly less than men with similar qualifications, mothers have a tendency to accumulate less experience than other workers.
III. Income Growth
Poverty is associated with the lack of sufficient income, so the core problem therefore is the compensation for the workers. Among the poor, only 11.4 percent or 2.9 million jobs around the clock is available for the whole year (Spriggs, 2007). This sector of the population is further directly impaired by minimum-wage laws that have hindered costs of living. This setback is particularly severe for poverty stricken American-Hispanics and American-Asians, where 18 percent of them worked year-round for full time (Spriggs, 2007).
There are several reasons why numerous people lack the income to overcome poverty. For instance, people do not work or if they work, they do not earn sufficient amount of money. Whether in good or bad economic times, the ordinary poor family with children exerts only 800 hours of work throughout a year or 16 hours of work for each week (Rector & Johnson, 2004). Evidently, almost 75 percent of poor children would be lifted outside certified poverty status if work is provided in every family, that would increase the work hours to 2,000 for every year or comparable to 40 hours for each week all through the year (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
In 2005, approximately 61 percent underprivileged families have no less than one worker; and of twice-poor families, 71 percent have no less than one worker. In view of the 1990s record job creation, the number of poor but working people declined to 8.5 million in 2000 from 10.1 million in 1993. In short, America is capable of dealing with poverty. But there have been vast stubborn concerns that have lodged the face of poverty. Mounting disparity in the labor market has increased the share of the working age poor citizens, and the unsympathetic federal minimum-wage laws that have amplified the numbers of poor people working year-round for full-time.
In a country with a per capita Gross Domestic Product is exceeding the poverty line for a family of four, it is atrocious that there are still more than 12 million poverty stricken American children, and nearly 3 million people work around the clock, for one whole year who are still finding it hard to make ends meet.
Facts Concerning the American Poor Sector
Based on the American’s accepted definition of poverty, only a small number of the 37 million individuals fit the poor description, contrary to what the Census Bureau classified. Despite the fact that real material destitution undoubtedly does take place, it is limited in severity and scope. A number of America’s underprivileged lives in material conditions that would be considered as well-off or comfortable some generations ago.
The following are information obtained from different government reports regarding people classified as poor by the Census Bureau:
1. Roughly 46 percent of the entire poor households actually own their individual houses (Rector & Johnson, 2004). The typical house owned by persons identified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with a garage, one-and-a-half baths, with at least a patio or porch.
2. About 76 percent of underprivileged families have air conditioning in their houses (Rector & Johnson, 2004). By comparison, merely 36 percent of the entire population of the United States benefited from air conditioning 3 decades ago.
3. Only 6 percent of the underprivileged families are considered overcrowded, and not less than two-thirds of them have extra two rooms for every person (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
4. The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Athens, Vienna, London, Paris, and other cities all over Europe (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
5. Practically three-quarters of poor families own an automobile, while 30 percent own at least two automobiles (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
6. Approximately 97 percent of poor households own at least one colored television, while half of the said percentage has at least two colored televisions (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
7. Roughly 78 percent own DVD or VCR players, while 62 percent have satellite or cable television reception (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
8. Around 73 percent of the poor households have microwave ovens, one-third owns an automatic dishwasher, and over half own a stereo system (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
Further, as a group, America’s poor are far from being constantly malnourished. In fact poor children have usual protein intakes of 100 percent beyond the medically suggested levels and consume more meat than children of higher-income do (Rector & Johnson, 2004). Nevertheless, despite the fact that in general the poor are well-nourished, there are still several poor families who experience short-term distress due to food deficiencies.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, although most of the time the hunger is temporary, still 2.6 percent of poor children and 13 percent of poor families experience food shortage sometime during the year (Rector & Johnson, 2004). Approximately 89 percent of the poor account sufficient food to eat to their families, at the same time only 2 percent says they often do not have adequate food to eat (Rector & Johnson, 2004).
Conclusion / Recommendations
Following the United States government classification of poverty, the typical poor American people have a living standard far superior as compared to what the public envisions. Nevertheless, the typical poor person’s living conditions should not be taken to suggest that every poor American lives devoid of hardship. Millions of Americans are still continually struggling to hang on, making tough choices between housing, hunger and health care for their families.
Economic inequality, income growth, and changes in family structure without doubt affected poverty trends over the latter half of the 20th century. Poverty in America can be readily reduced, if parents are provided with sufficient hours of work and if fathers are at all times present with their families. Although marriage and work are unyielding ladders away from poverty, the country’s welfare system uncooperatively continues to be unsympathetic to both. Foremost programs such as Medicaid, public housing, and food stamps keep on reprimanding marriage and rewarding idleness. Therefore, if welfare could be turned around to uphold marriage and work, the remaining number of poor family would quickly decrease.
Further, as a matter of course, the United States has employed over the years job creation and economic growth to trim down poverty, but at present situation the courses are consequential only to the extent that inequality on wages is reduced. Poor people are generally not victims of themselves, but of appalling economic policies along with obstructions to opportunity. Since work generates income, it is important therefore that the government must provide a great increase in available working hours in different labor sectors for the poor. Along with the work opportunities, it is also important to eliminate economic inequalities based on gender, age, economic status, and many others in order to provide higher wages and higher incomes to the underprivileged sectors of the country. America is a nation with one of the most productive and strongest economies in the world. As such, the country must exert a continuing effort to fully utilize the abundance and therefore eliminate the country’s alarming poverty rate.