Child Poverty and The United States Melissa Sandusky University of Phoenix Child poverty can be found in every corner of the world. In any country there are children living within the devastating effects of poverty. Child poverty has become a worldwide epidemic, and the impacts it has on children are countless. This paper will discuss child poverty in the United States and how it has impacted our poor children in this country. In the research I found four major ways that poverty affects these United States children.
They are physical health, mental well-being, education, and environment which I will describe in further detail. People often view the United Sates as the land of opportunity and plenty. We see television ads asking for monetary donations for children in other countries who are living in poverty. We have countless organizations that work to help combat poverty throughout the world. This country may be looked upon as a land of plenty by other countries, but the United States also has problems of its own. One of those problems is child poverty. As of 2006, there were 39. 7 million United States citizens living in poverty, and single mothers and women had the poorest households in that same year (Hildebrant and Stevens, 2009). In 2006 a single parent of a household of three with a yearly income of approximately $16,000 was considered living at the poverty line (Lee, 2009). One third of all the homeless people in the United States are entire families with children, and the numbers are continuing to grow (Macionis, 2006). The statistics of child poverty in the United States are heartbreaking. There are five million poor children under the age of six years old in this country (Korbin, 1992). It has been estimated that over 17 percent of children, adolescents, and teenagers in the United States are poor.
Studies have also shown that 36 percent of the impoverished people in the United States are children (Macionis, 2006). One-third of Hispanic households have children that live in poverty. African-Americans have an increased risk of their children living in poverty.
Nearly 50 percent of African-American children live in poverty. Over the last 40 years, the percentage of poverty in the United States’ elderly has dropped, but the children living in poverty has remained the same at 20 percent (Korbin, 1992). We know that the first several years of a child’s life are some of the most important developmentally. Physical health is so important in young children, but the impoverished children of the United States are at serious risk of health problems. According to Hildebrant and Stevens, the most common physical health conditions found in poor children are “severe asthma, seizures, diabetes, and lead poisoning” (2009). Families on welfare are almost two times at risk for having a child with a physical or mental problems.
The children with parents that use assistive programs such as welfare or Medicaid show that 25 percent have one or more health problems that are chronic. One study conducted showed that single mothers of poor children were unemployed due to their own or their children’s health problems (Hildebrandt ; Stevens, 2009). One can assume that poor children with chronically ill mothers are particularly at risk, and mothers with sick children may not have the resources to care for them properly. This goes to show that children in poor families have an increased risk of poor health and developmental delays (Hildebrandt ; Stevens, 2009). Children born into poverty during their first year of life are more likely to die from neglect, accidents, or from violence (Macionis, 2006). Girls who grow up in poverty are more likely to conceive a baby before graduating from high school. Then many of these young mothers go on welfare. Boys living in poverty are more likely to have a baby without being married.
These boys are also more likely to get involved in criminal activity, and they are less likely to hold down a full time job (Corcoran, 1995). According to Lykens, Fulda, Bae, ; Singh and their research, they found that 13 percent of poor children are considered to have health problems that require special attention such as specialists. Impoverished families are 33 percent more at risk to acquire health problems that require special needs (2009). If a child living in poverty has no insurance, and are part of a minority group they are more likely not to see a specialist for their health care problems (Lykens, Fulda, Bae, ; Singh, 2009). Mental health problems commonly found in children living in poverty are “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, anxiety, and depression” (Hildebrant and Stevens,2009). Children living in poverty with a single mother can feel unstable and have emotional problems as a result of the mother’s unstable employment. A single mother who goes off of assistance programs and then back on again can contribute to their child’s mental health problems. In a study conducted on mothers who go on and off of public assistance showed that their children had more behavior problems due to the mothers unstable work patterns. (Hildebrant and Stevens, 2009). Poverty also effects a child’s opportunities of a good education. From a young age, education is of importance in this country. Preschool costs money, and the free federally funded Head Start program has a limited number of children it reaches (Macionis, 2006). If these children are unable to attend preschool it may put them farther behind the other children in their classes in the future.
Children living in poverty generally live in poorer neighborhoods which leads to going to a school that is poor as well (Lee, 2009). Children who are poor often go to school districts that are not as well equipped to teach these kids the skills they need in order to succeed after graduation (Murane, 2007). These school districts often do not have the updated materials that are being taught in the richer neighborhoods. Research has shown that children who live in poverty often have lower reading scores than children living above the poverty rate (Lee, 2009). Impoverished children tend to be found at schools where even teachers lack leadership and important skills needed to constructively teach and handle children with learning problems. This leaves the children with learning disabilities without the necessary skills needed to earn a living (Murane, 2007). Children attending these poorer schools may not have clear role models, and they simply may not be taught that they can succeed in life. One reason needy children remain living in poverty as adults is because their parents cannot afford to help pay for further education (Crocran,1995). College simply may not be an option. According to Corcoran, adult males who grew up in poor homes had a decrease in their hourly wages by 30 percent and their yearly wages by 40 percent compared to males raised in middle class homes.
These males also tended to work significantly less hours than males who grew up in the middle class (Corcoran, 1995). According to Korbin, children living in poverty are not poor because their parents will not work (1992). They are poor because of the low minimum wage rates, and jobs do not always provide the means to support one child let alone more than one. One fifth of children’s families have a parent who works full-time.
Two-thirds of those poor children have a parent who at least works part-time (Korbin, 1992). The statistics change with singe parents living in poverty. Single mothers with more than one child must make above minimum wage at their jobs in order to afford childcare. As a result of the high price of child care many single mothers do not work and remain on welfare (Hildebrant and Stevens, 2009). A child’s home environment is of utmost importance in regards to developmental and emotional milestones. Lee, through his research, determined that the more nurturing the home environment, the better chance a child had of succeeding later in life (2009). When a child is raised in poverty they could be without proper food, clothing, or a basic sense of security. Unfortunately, when children are raised in poor households their home environment suffers.
Not only may their homes be less safe or in unsafe neighborhoods, it also leaves some children homeless. Children who suffer from poverty surround us even in the United States. There is a need to find a solution that will help these children. Children do not choose to be born into poverty, and in order to fix the problem we need to find helpful and lasting ways to help their parents. This problem is not going to fix itself, and the government has tried for many years to figure out ways to help this epidemic of children living in poverty.
Although, government programs have helped some impoverished adults, their solutions have not changed the poverty rate for children (Korbin, 1992). According to Murnane, the government should tackle the issues of poor students by pushing states to enhance high school requirements to reflect the skills needed to help them succeed after graduation (2007). Poor students have higher dropout rates and are not likely receive their diplomas. Seventy-five percent of white youth graduate high school. Only 50 percent of Hispanics and African American students who live in poverty receive their diplomas (Murnane, 2007). These statistics provide proof that education for the poor children is essential in enhancing their lives after graduation. People in charge of school reforms need to describe the skills and curriculum students should achieve each academic year.
Schools should acquire principles that know how to employ and uphold successful teachers. Teachers should step in and help the student at the first sign of a learning problem and seek them out help to improve in those areas (Murnane, 2007). If we would implement these characteristics of change in our schools we could change the outcome for children living in poverty after they graduate from high school. Perhaps if our school systems focused a little more on the skills needed to obtain jobs after high school graduation, children living in poverty would have a better chance at succeeding. If our children all had the same opportunities with education at a high school level, the poor children may be able to make a better life for themselves after graduation. In conclusion, poverty is present in the United States. Impoverished children are impacted by poverty in a number of ways including physical health, mental well-being, education, and environment. Korbin states that “It is said that a measure of a societies altruism or goodness is based on its treatment of its most fragile members: the young, the old, the infirm, and the disabled” (1992). Perhaps the citizens of the United States can do more to help the poor children of our country.
Regardless, childhood poverty is an epidemic, and our country needs to work to find a workable solution to the problem. References Corcoran, M (Annual 1995). Rags to rags: poverty and mobility in the United States.
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