Poverty in America is a topic that has generated widespread interest among many parties. The government is determined on keeping an updated record of the people in poverty to help in the estimation of intervention programs. The pre-tax income per household is the number used in computing the official levels of poverty (Shambaugh et al.). Although America is one of the wealthiest nations, the numbers prove the fact that poverty is still prevalent.
According to the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate is 12.7% as recorded in 2016. The percentage figure represents 40.6 million Americans, which is 6 million less than the 46.7 million recorded in 2014 (Semega et al. 12). Which groups are most likely to live in poverty? Data from the Census Bureau also reveals trends about which groups are considered poor in America. The children represent 32.6% of those in poverty, and 11% was the ratio of senior citizens above the age of 65 (Semega et al. 14). The other 56% of people living in poverty consists of the working age population between 18 and 65. Women are more likely to live in poverty than men. 11.3% of males lived in poverty in 2016 compared to 14% of females in the same year (Semega et al. 15). In 2016, the poverty rate of foreign-born naturalized citizens was 10% while that for native-born people and non-citizens was 12.3% and 19.5% respectively.
Race also plays a part in determining the levels of poverty with white non-Hispanics having the lowest representation at 8.8%. Asians were 10.1%, and blacks represented the bulk of people living in poverty at 22% (Semega et al. 15). Poverty levels are different across various races and ages and keep changing in each year. Describe the structural factor you’ve chosen. The term deindustrialization has been used to refer to the decline in manufacturing activities, and the movement of jobs to other regions. Economic, social, political, and technological changes around the world have increased the ability of firms to move labor to places where the costs are lowest (Russo and Linkon 4).
How has this factor affected poverty levels? Globalization and offshoring have made it possible for companies to hire less expensive, and well-trained, staff from other regions of the world (Russo and Linkon 1). More than 32 million jobs were lost during the deindustrialization period of the 1970s and 80s. More recently, almost 700,000 firms closed per year between 1995 and 2004, affecting about 6 million workers (Russo and Linkon 4). Job losses result in financial difficulties amongst the victims as they struggle to cope with the loss of wages (Russo and Linkon 5). Workers who used to earn good hourly wages soon find it challenging to secure necessities like clothing, food, transport, and utilities (Russo and Linkon 6). Families that cannot provide these basic needs will end up relying on government welfare programs. Jobs provide more than wages to the workers. One of the key benefits of being employed is access to healthcare. A 1% increase in the unemployment rates results in about 1.1 million people losing their health insurance (Russo and Linkon 6).
People soon find themselves unable to pay for deductibles or out-of-pocket and hence they avoid seeking treatment. Increasing deindustrialization means a high rate of job loss, and therefore health insurance coverage as well. Apart from the loss of direct wages which pushes families into poverty, the closure of factories affects poverty in another way. It leaves employees without the promise of pensions after retirement, and hence they must work in another job for more years (Russo, and Linkon 6). Closure often means that the firm will no longer fund its pension programs and hence the employees will suffer. Even when the government steps in to compensate, the value is significantly lower than the pensions people could have earned (Russo and Linkon 6). Cities, and communities rely on income taxes, property taxes, and sales from the existing industries to offer vital services.
Large-scale closure will affect the revenue streams of the government causing a drastic reduction in the budget (Russo and Linkon 7). The government will find it challenging to offer critical services and programs since it is no longer receiving taxes thus putting a strain on the community. Who has been the most negatively affected by this factor? Why? Most of the families that live pay check to pay check are left staring at poverty in the event of prolonged unemployment, where payment is non-existent. Blue-collar factory workers have been most affected by deindustrialization since most firms have taken their manufacturing operations overseas to take advantage of the low cost of labor (Shambaugh et al.).
The causal attributions for poverty in America are reliant on the dominant beliefs, variables, and sociodemographic variables (Generalao 40). Most Americans view poverty, and the people in it, from the individualistic perspective of the country’s culture. Many Americans attributed poverty to the personal lack of drive, effort, proper management, and motivation from the poor people (Generalao 40). There is widespread criticism of the poor, especially from blue-collar white Americans, who believe that there are many available jobs but the poor people would better depend on welfare instead of working. More whites attributed poverty to internal reasons than the non-white population (Generalao 41).
Blacks and other minorities believe that the poor would instead earn their own money, but it is difficult for people in poverty to find jobs (Lauter). 52% of the American population thought that people would rather earn their living while 44% suggested that the poor wanted to remain on welfare (Lauter). How does this representation of poverty reinforce poverty? The idea that poverty is self-inflicted generates different emotional responses amongst people. People who believe in internal causes of poverty indicate negative stereotypes regarding the poor and thus a negative attitude towards helping them (Generalao 42). It leads to an increase in resentment and a reduction of empathy towards the poor and their plight. This group will not make any efforts to help the poor, and they will also be against the welfare programs, like food stamps, which assist people living in poverty. People who believe poverty is a result of economic conditions also associate it with uncontrollability (Generalao 49). They rely on welfare and other stop-gap measures that could breed a culture of dependency and hence continue the cycle of poverty.
The government, via the US Census Bureau, holds power to determine people who are considered to be living below the poverty line. While adjusting for composition, a family is classified as poor if their pre-tax income is lower than the current threshold set of three times the minimum food diet (Shambaugh et al.). What are programs currently available to those in poverty? There are several safety net programs in America to assist in efforts of poverty reduction: The Social Security Act It is the most significant safety net program in America with a reach of at least 62 million people in 2017 and a total of $955 billion in benefits (“What Are The Major Federal Safety Net Programs In The U.S.?”). Unemployment Insurance The unemployment insurance programs by the US Department of Labor provide benefits to all eligible workers who fall into unemployment via no fault of their making. Head Start This program has increased the benefits of early childhood development in low-income families that have children below the age of three.
The program had benefited 900,000 children per annum, representing a net federal spend of $8.7 billion (“What Are The Major Federal Safety Net Programs In The U.S.?”). Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program This program was previously known as the Food Stamp Act. It helps to provide much-needed assistance in food purchasing for low-income families. A total of $66.5 billion in benefits was used to serve 44.2 million people in 2016 (“What Are The Major Federal Safety Net Programs In The U.S.?”). Supplemental Security Income Program This Federal program provides income to people over the age of 65 as well as the blind and disabled individuals. The amount given to individuals was $733, and $1,000 for couples, in 2016.
A total of $58 billion was spent on this program (“What Are The Major Federal Safety Net Programs In The U.S.?”). Evaluate the claim that those living in poverty are just too lazy to work Conservatives and white blue-collar workers in America are of the opinion that poor people are too lazy to work. This opinion is not correct because many factors could lead to the poverty conditions. Most of the people cannot find any work to match their skills, and hence they end up being jobless despite a willingness to work. In 2012, 13.5% of the adults living in poverty said that they failed to work since they could not find jobs (Weissmann). Other poor people could be retired, ill, disabled, or in school and hence they cannot be employed. The idea that people are too lazy to work is, therefore, not entirely accurate.
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