Poverty in the U.S.A. & The World

Poverty - What is it? How can we help?

How is Poverty defined? Which groups in society are affected? by Nick Williams

According to Census.gov 'poverty thresholds are the dollar amounts used to determine poverty status'. The size of a family and the ages of the family members are considered when determining poverty thresholds. A family of four with two children under 18 years of age with an income of $24,008 is living in poverty (census.gov 2014 data).

The Department of Health and Human Services states that $24,250 is the poverty threshold for a family of four (aspe.hhs.gov 2015 data).

Pew Research notes that 'most poor Americans are in their prime working years... in 2012, 57% of poor Americans were ages 18 to 64, versus 41.7% in 1959' (pew research.org).

The National Center for Children in Poverty advises that 22% of all American children 'live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level' (nccp.org).

The poverty rate is higher among Native American, African American, and Hispanic/Latino families than within other groups of people within the U.S.A.

Thomas J, Sullivan, author of Introduction to Social Problems, advises that 'poverty does not refer to a deprivation of resources alone but to an uneven distribution of the resources available'. (153). Sullivan also notes 'most of the poor in the United States - 70 percent - are white....however, nonwhites are more likely to be poor than whites. Although 27 percent of African Americans and 25 percent of Hispanic Americans are below the poverty cutoff, only 9 percent of whites are at that income level... About 27% of American Indians have incomes below the official poverty level. Asian Americans as a group have slightly higher levels of poverty than whites - 11 percent of Asian and Pacific Islanders. Some Asian groups have quite high poverty levels, however, with 61.5 percent of all first-generation Laotian and Cambodian families living in poverty, as well as 25 percent of all first-generation Vietnamese families.' (159)

Sullivan further advises that the conflict perspective on poverty considers there is competition between social classes for resources with 'some groups managing to capture more of these resources than others.'(166). The struggle between the social classes then 'results in the inequitable distribution of resources that makes up the stratification systems of modern societies.'(167)

Cliff Brown, author of 'Poverty in the United States: An Overview', advises '[r]ace and ethnicity are related to poverty and are closely bound to perceptions and stereotypes about the poor.'(91) Brown states that '[t]he reasons for these group-level disparities are complex, but they are linked to public policy outcomes, demographic changes, shifts in the economy, and lingering gaps in education, employment, and wealth that have both historical roots and contemporary causes.' (91) Brown makes the point that a healthy economy is essential if people are to be lifted out of poverty and advises 'poverty cannot be adequately explained without focusing on the economy, which must provide a larger share of better-paying jobs in order to reduce poverty levels.'(95)

I volunteer at a food bank and I understand how members of the community need help. The loss of a job can affect the whole family. Food is a basic need and hunger is something that many families are facing on a daily basis. Volunteering time at food banks and soup kitchens is a way that we can help in our community. Professor Mark Edwards advised in his interview with Professor Olga Custer that hunger is not always visible and that hunger and poverty are associated with unemployment. Low levels of educational attainment, low wages and unemployment are connected to income inequality which in turn is connected to poverty.

Poverty affects people of all ages. Families with young children, single people, and the elderly. Elderly people whom have retired and do not have any kind of pension need to rely on Social Security payments. Sullivan notes that 'Social Security has not been intended to serve as a person's sole retirement income, but rather as a supplement....Social Security payments are low, and therefore those seniors who are solely dependent on Social Security are in difficult financial straits.' (252) Aged people within society do suffer from poverty; Sullivan also states '[p]overty rates are still unacceptably high among older women living alone, older African Americans, and older Hispanics. Three-quarters of the poor among the elderly are women.' (250)

The World Bank is working to end global poverty by 2030 and is investing in 'education, health, sanitation, and protecting the poor and vulnerable against sudden risks of unemployment, hunger, illness, drought and other calamities' (world bank.org).

The United Nations reports that 'Extreme Poverty Rates Have Been Cut By More Than Half Since 1990'. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes putting an end to 'poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions' (un.org).

Poverty - What can be done? by Wanyi Zhou

Following the increased development of technology and the development of the country, more and more people are becoming richer than before. The policies of the country are beneficial for some citizens, however there are still some people that are poor and homeless.
I remember when I went to Portland in the New Year and I was waiting for the Greyhound. I saw a lot of people standing together and they were talking to each other. The characteristic they had in common was that their clothing was untidy. When my friend took out some cigarettes they came and asked him for some cigarettes. Furthermore, I crossed the street and saw some people sleeping in the corner of the street. There were blankets on the corner of the street but no people sleeping there. I think that the blankets were put there by the homeless as a "home" for themselves. Most of the homeless people were African American. I felt cold at the time and my face hurt because of the cold wind. I felt sad for the people but I had no way to help them.
In my opinion there are poor people in every country. I do not think the governments can solve the problem of poverty but they can reduce it. I think the poor people need to be able to regain their independence. Also, people need to give more chance to the poor and there should be no more discrimination.

POVERTY - Hawaii by Maile Edwards

When you think of Hawaii, you usually think of paradise and that we don't have real problems here. Growing up here, I can tell you that this is not the case. I come from a big family - I'm the second oldest of 8 kids. My dad is the sole breadwinner for our family, so money was always tight. In 2008 when the economy crashed, my dad lost his job. This news came as a big shock to us, and I didn't realize it then, but our lives were about to change drastically.

My dad filed for unemployment and food stamp benefits. He began to look for a job anywhere he could - even taking part time work at the grocery store because that's all he could get with the competition of jobs. I had to drop all of my extracurricular activities because they became to expensive to keep up. Every day I would catch the city bus from my middle school to the elementary school to pick up my younger siblings and we would walk home together. My parents were gone from the house most days, whether they were meeting with unemployment benefits people or job hunting, so much of the care of my younger siblings came down to me and my older brother. My parents had to sell their car, my dad cashed out his 401K and used his retirement money to pay the rent, and we were on welfare for a while. After a year of this hardship, my dad's company was doing better and positions opened up, so he got his job back. Even though this was a success and we never got to the point where we were homeless, if it continued for a couple more months, I have no doubt that we would be sleeping in our 15 passenger van down by the beach.

It's scary to think about how bad things were for me family, but this is the case for many people living in Hawaii. The cost of living here is astronomical, so as a result our homeless population is becoming a big problem. The neighborhood that I moved to last summer is home to some of the lowest earning residents on the whole island. There aren't many resources available to them out here, and we don't even have enough public city buses running to get everyone where they need to go. Many of my neighbors and friends that live here are low-income, on EBT/food stamps, and even on welfare. It's a struggle for many people who live here, and Hawaii is not just the tropical paradise that people make it out to be.

Poverty - Jackson Lawrence

While I have never lived in poverty, a majority of my extended family has lived in poverty my entire life. Both my parents grew up in very poor families with lots of children and both managed to come up out of it and be quite successful. They being the only ones of their siblings to go to college was their way out. All of their siblings (my aunts and uncles) have always had jobs that the book would describe as “dirty work”. While none of them would be characterized as successful, it could definitely be said that they are all extremely hard working and motivated people. A common theme that I have noticed in my aunts and uncles that I believe keeps them from success is that none of them have more than a high school diploma, they had children at very young ages and a good portion of them have drug/alcohol problems. I would assume that my parents noticed these trends also as they are none of those things and didn’t start having kids till they were quite older than any of their siblings. So while I myself have never really had to deal with poverty, I have grown up watching it my entire life. That being said, I think that poverty is a deep hole that is very difficult to escape. As the reading showed, there are a lot of things can send a person to poverty and keep them there. A lot of hard work and luck is necessary to stay out of poverty.

A Strong Economy Helps People to Help Themselves Achieve a Better Life by Nick Williams

Poverty and homelessness are issues that the government needs to address more fully. Poverty and homelessness need to be carefully examined in terms of the causes and also the resources that are available which can be utilized to help those in need. The government needs to ensure that there are more shelters and food banks available and more counseling and support networks to assist anyone that needs help. The economy is a key issue with respect to poverty and homelessness. Unemployment can lead to homelessness and poverty. A vibrant economy will create better opportunities and employment prospects. Most people that are poor and unemployed would like to help themselves work towards a better life - however they need to have the skills and opportunity to do so. The government does have a role to play in providing assistance to the poor and needy however it also must work towards creating a strong economy.