Poverty and Its Effect on Society

1 January 2017

However, while the U. S. has reported such high numbers in GDP, we rank third in poverty with a 17% poverty rate. This ranking is among the top thirty of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in the world. Only Mexico and Turkey rank higher than our country (Ranking America, Blog at WordPress. com). Poverty and Its Effects on Society The disease of poverty in the U. S. is not new, but it is one that has remained a constant, even as our nation grew into a world superpower.

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While attitudes have slowly shifted in regards to those who are considered living at and below the poverty level, the nation has yet to fully attempt to attack the problem in way that would seriously find a cure. In 2011, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that one in five children, 14. 7 million or 20 percent, lived below the poverty level. This number is up from 17% in 2000 (Report: Child poverty Rate Hits 20 percent in U. S. as families struggle; Christian Science Monitor). The total number of people living below the poverty level is at its highest, 46. million as reported by the U. S. Census Bureau, which is the highest number since the Bureau began publishing its records in 1959(Total U. S. Population living below the poverty line; U. S. Census Bureau). And although some groups are affected by poverty more than others, no one, regardless of race or age, is immune to the disease. The total number of people living below the poverty line affects the U. S. GDP, crime, and has caused a major gap in the have and have-nots in the nation.

The current recession has had an extreme impact on people living in poverty and the recent occupy movement, regardless of any ones opinion of it, has brought to light the growing dissatisfaction that many in the nation feel toward corporations and the minority who seem to be only getting richer while more people across the nation slip below the poverty line. In 2007, the government classified 37 million men, women, and children-12. 5 percent of the population –as poor (Macionis, 2010, p. 288).

Every day, we pass people living on the street, children go to school wearing the same clothes and receive the only meal they will eat that day, and millions people go to sleep without food or adequate shelter. Poverty can affect ones educational status, and numerous reports cite how poverty and poor health are intertwined. The number of people living in poverty is also, in some opinions an issue of national security. Attitudes toward the poor have changed in this nation over the years. In 19th and early 20th century America, the poor were sometimes sent to poor houses or farms where they worked in exchange for food and shelter.

Major cities primary means of dealing with orphaned children were to put them into “Pauper apprenticeships” where they worked for an individual who, in exchange, provided them with the basic necessities of life. Many of these children were often abused and used more as slave labor. During the great depression, when most of the nation was reeling from the effects of the stock market crash, the lines between classes blurred, and many who had once been working or middle class, or very affluent, found themselves in the soup lines right next to those they may have once ignored.

Sadly, many of us today have that same attitude toward the poor and homeless. During the holidays we drop money in the charity kettle for the Salvation Army, buy food for food closets’, and donate old clothes and blankets at the end of the year for a tax write off. But in the end we ignore those who are struggling just like they were years ago. The difference is, today, many of us who now do the ignoring are possibly not too far from be improvised ourselves. Although the current national unemployment rate is reported to be trending down, it is still at a staggering 8. % (Employment Situation Summary; U. S. Department of Labor). So what can be done to stop the growing number of those who are considered living in poverty? The debate is widespread and there seems to be no one right answer. In the media politicians play the blame game on which side, Republican or Democrat, are to blame for the nation’s current economic mess. And the occupy movement, which seems to shift its focus and intent daily, has made a lot of noise and pointed fingers at who is at fault, has yet to serve up any concrete plans on how to actually help stem the problem of people who are poor.

Education is, in some opinion, the best way out of poverty. Surveys from the U. S Census Bureau in 1998, 1999, and 2000 state that a person with a high school degree can earn about $7,000 more a year than someone who did not finish school, and a person with just an associate degree can anticipate making at least $15,000 more (Value of an Education; EarnMyDegree. com). Though these figures most likely have changed due to the current economic climate, it can still be assumed that having an education of some sort is far more profitable than being a high school dropout.

Other than an education, there needs to be a more focused attack to ending poverty by treating it as a disease like cancer. According to the National Institute of Health, in 2011 823 million was spent in research dollars on obesity. However, only 15 million was spent on homelessness(Estimate of Funding of Various Research, Condition, and Disease Categories; National Institute of Health) , and data from the Department of Health and Human Services showed that in 2011 2. million was awarded to research poverty (Poverty Research Center FY 2011 Announcement of Award, Department of Health and Human Services). Somewhere there is a major disconnect in this country when how much a person weighs is more important than if they have a job or adequate shelter. The issue of have and the have-nots has existed ever since man has walked the earth. Throughout history there is proof that people have always lived in some form of poverty whether it be as serfs, slaves, or immigrants to the U. S. living in ethnic ghettos.

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