How Poverty Affects America


People that are born into poverty face countless problems that can affect them their whole lives. About 50 million Americans have a hard time affording food, sustaining a secure place to live, landing a job, or other financial problems (Kendall 25). A lot of this is due to the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Every day we encounter individuals that are suffering financially, and we would never even know. People that are not affected by poverty have little to no education on this topic. Understanding exactly what poverty is, who and where is affected the most, how social classes and inequality have a play on poverty, the direct effect on the livelihood of children, and the explanation for poverty could change how we live our daily lives and change these staggering statistics.
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Living in poverty is a lot more than not having money. It comes down to not having a place to stay, not having access to proper education, or not having the opportunity to see a doctor when sick. Not being able to provide for yourself and your family causes many hardships. When lack of money is added to the equation it limits families on the things they can participate in that society deems as normal. Not being able to go on a school fieldtrip, have a birthday party, or go to a school dance. In 2009, 14.3 percent of Americans fell below the poverty line (Kendall 34) This line is determined by what the Social Security Administration deemed the minimum cost of food an average family spends to meet the minimum level of necessary nutrition (Kendall 34). If a family falls below this line they are considered to be living in poverty since they cannot afford the necessities. A single cause for poverty has not been found and I do not know if it ever will, but it affects each person and environment differently.
Poverty is not distributed evenly throughout all social or ethnic background, sex, or household composition (Kendall 35). For being the wealthiest country in the world the US as a high rate of poverty. The area of the country that is affected the most is the south states and some of the east coast area. The most common poor person in the US are women and children. Studies show that about 1 in 5 children in America live in poverty (Kendall 36). Single parent households are the next most common to live in poverty. With less members of the household working and earning an income the struggle to obtain the necessities becomes even more real. When women are the head of the single parent household the risk for deeper poverty rises due to the fact the women more often than not make less than men (Kendall 36). The single parent life, or just parenting in general, is already stressful enough, but adding a lack of money to that causes extra, unwanted stress.
The saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” becomes truer every day. The gap between the rich and the poor has a major effect on the US society as a whole. The more wealthy communities have all the proper resources and chances to live a full life, when on the other hand the less fortunate ones don’t have the opportunities to get the proper healthcare, education or just basic necessities. Our country is divided into two main social classes, the capitalist class and the working class (Kendall 32). The working class make their living by working for the capitalists. According to Marx’s model described in the text book, “inequality and poverty are inevitable by-products of the exploitation of workers by capitalists” (Kendall 29). Not only does the class you are in effect your income, but so does race and ethnicity. Compared to white households, people of color have a much harder time accumulating wealth. White families that have generations of built up wealth are much better off than African American or Latino/a families that may have not had that chance. This then leads us to the divided income of families all over America. Due to the cost of essentials, the middle class has been struggling recently. These costs consist of transportation, health care, housing, and college tuition. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 has not helped the middle class in the slightest. It had an effect on all employees, but it hit the middle class the hardest, putting a large majority out of work and struggling to get ahead.
Children are the most impacted by the consequences of poverty. Lower income households have higher rates of infant mortality, diabetes, and other diseases. These people also have fewer healthy days per year and life expectancy rates (Kendall 37). Families who have little to no access to health care usually do not have health insurance. If a person does not obtain health insurance they are considered uninsured (Kendall 38). When families are under stress it leads to a higher chance of domestic violence. Children that are exposed to toxic, stressful environments at a young age are susceptible to long term health problems (University of Minnesota 2.4 Consequences of Poverty). Having high blood pressure at a young age leads to neurological problems down the road. It affects brain development and social skills. Poor kids tend to struggle in school more than kids that have not been exposed to high stress environments. The U.S Department of Education has seen a large increase in the number of high-poverty schools. This means that over 75 percent of the students in attendance come from families of poverty (Kendall 40). In low income communities there is a high dropout rate due to the neurological effects of stress on the child growing up, or in a lot of cases, kids will leave school to help support their family. High levels of stress also have a negative effect on the immune system which causes sickness at a young age which then later in life causes biological changes that make these kids more likely to suffer from being overweight or addiction (University of Minnesota 2.4 Consequences of Poverty). When drug and alcohol addiction starts it is hard to overcome. Being deeply involved in these types of actions then leads to a high level of street crime and a negative lifestyle.
There are many consequences of poverty, but most people struggle to find an explanation for the amount of poverty we find in not only our country but our world. Some people blame it on the attitudes or the motivation of the people involved, while others blame it on the lack of human capital that people possess. Human capital essentially comes down to what assets you bring to the table. That could be education, job training, experience or other specialized knowledge. The next explanation is cultural background. According to anthropologist Oscar Lewis “some-but not all-poor people develop a separate and self-perpetuating system of attitudes and behaviors that keeps them trapped in poverty” (qtd. in Kendall 43). On the other hand, in more recent explanations, the lack of cultural capital is discussed. This term is described as social assets such as beliefs, values and attitudes (Kendall 43). A structural explanation of change is defined as something that is out of the persons control. The most common example of this is unemployment. The person being laid off is then left struggling to support their family and can no longer stay on the upward path of getting ahead financially. Unemployment is high all over America creating an unstable environment for the children and families involved.
In the end, people that are raised in low income societies have a much lower chance of success in life. Even though the United States is the wealthiest democracy, our country does not spend near as much money on helping the unfortunate. Due to this lack of support and funding the US has an increasing poverty rate that effects millions all over the country. If you are unaffected by poverty than you may think nothing of it, or that it is not your problem. When in reality a lot of these issues can help be resolved by the people not directly involved. As a whole American can stop putting labels on people. When these labels are placed on the poor they begin to think of themselves as who society thinks they are. Whether that is useless, unintelligent or apathetic. Once someone tells you who you are enough times you may start to believe them. So, when you know someone is struggling to make ends meet, do not be another negative in their life. Decide to be better. Be better for yourself. Be better for the people around you. Be better for our country and the people that suffer every day.

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