In America, we hold many values that represent our great country. We value our freedom, abundance of opportunities and peace between all differences among us. But there is one value we strive to hold but cannot achieve: equality. Equality is defined as the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. In America, we like to believe that we treat all of our citizens equally and every person has the same opportunity to achieve success. But this is untrue, there are many people who have head starts in this “race” to succeed and others who have been held before the starting line. There are 39.7 million people who are held before the starting line, making up 12.3 percent of our population. (The Conversation, 2018). This amount of people is considered to be poor or living in poverty. There are far too many people living in poverty and each and every demographic experiences it differently.
The term poverty acts as an umbrella, as there are many types of poverty that people can experience. The most commonly known type is extreme poverty, which is set to having less than $1 a day. Another known type of poverty is absolute poverty, which measures the amount of money necessary for basic needs such as shelter, food, and clothing. The quality of life is borderline nonexistent, as most of these people living through poverty are only worried about the items necessary for survival. There is another type that I would consider to be the “highest class” of poverty, relative poverty, which are people whose economic status is poorer than other people’s in society, but still have a better quality of life. These may be everyday people who cannot afford a TV and a Netflix subscription. Relative poverty is measured in terms relative to the average person in society. No matter which type of poverty is present, each one is an issue that should not be taken lightly. In order for any person to thrive and succeed, there are a few basics that need to be met. The basic needs for survival are shelter, food, and clothing; but those needs are only the bare minimum to survive. To achieve greatness and be at peace, there should not be any worry about this month’s rent being paid or wondering if there will be food in the house every day. A happy home means for a happy life, when people feel safe at home and have a steady income, most likely they will live a happier and healthier daily life. Usually when time is spent worrying and stressing, it not only affects the mental health, but also the physical health. Health issues can start to arise and it’s not as easy to see a doctor when you’re living in poverty. One by one, poverty starts to eat away at thousands of families and households around our country.
Poverty has many dimensions and does not target all demographics equally, most of the people living in poverty are minorities. These minority groups do not always apply to just race, but also single mothers and single parent households. In 2016, the rate of male headed households living in poverty was only 13.1 percent, and for women headed households it was 26.6 percent. (Poverty USA, 2016). It is apparent that women headed households experience low-income more than male headed households. Women are gender stratified in society, and socially stratified in this case. Women earn less than men, so they may have to juggle more than one low-wage job. On top of maintaining multiple jobs, they struggle with finding a baby sitter or paying a day care center to watch their kids when they are not in school. All of these factors are just a glimpse into the everyday life that single-parents families experience in poverty. Within the 40 million Americans living in poverty, 27.4 percent are African American, 26.6 percent are Hispanic and only 9.9 percent are White (Economic Policy Institute, 2018). Minority groups within our society tend to earn less than non-Hispanic whites do. The reason for the wage gap between minorities and the vast majority, is most likely due to the inequalities of opportunity. In the case of poverty-stricken households, the housing areas are usually rundown, the schools may not be the most prestigious, and the occupations are not highly qualified. This leaves families left with the low wage jobs with little to no benefits, and the schools that provide the bare minimum of education, which often times does not prepare the child for college or a higher-level education. Education and wealth typically go hand in hand, the higher the education, the higher paying occupation is applied, and the more income is earned for the individual.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and declared and “unconditional war on poverty”. (Chaundry, Wimer, Macartney, Frolich, Campbell, Swenson, Oellerich, & Hauan, 2016). These two acts were implemented to improve the opportunities, education, health, and resources for low-income families to allow them to have better opportunities to make ends meet. These acts became the building blocks of our mission to alleviate poverty at its worst, about 50 years ago. Since 1964, food stamps, (later known as the SNAP program), Medicaid and Medicare of 1965, Supplemental Security Income of 1972, the child support program of 1975, the Children’s Health Insurance Program of 1997, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010 have drastically aided.
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