Poverty has several definitions however it basically means “a state of privation or lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. ” There is no universally accepted definition of “socially acceptable money or material possessions” that exists because poverty is a relative concept. In other poorer countries it is said to mean living at the brink of subsistence, while in America many suffer from undernourishment, not many confront starvation. A key concern in the area of poverty is the reality of inequality. Inequality has been and continues to be a problem in all societies.
There is no society that distributes income evenly. In spite of all the theoretical and technical problems of measurement, the government has developed a widely cited poverty index that reflects the diverse intake requirements of families depending on their size, sex, age and family location, while also surveying the gender of the head of household. Based on previous surveys, the creators of the poverty index determined that families of three or more persons would spend approximately one-third of their income on food. Based on the poverty index the poverty level for these families would be set at three times the cost of the economy food plan.
For smaller families and people who lived alone, the cost of economy food plan were multiplied at higher factors taking in consideration larger fixed expenses for these households. The Census Bureau updates the poverty thresholds every year. Another area of concern is that the poverty index has some defects. One of them being it does not allow for regional deviations in the cost of living or for higher costs in the central city areas, which is where many of the poor are concentrated. Another defect being the food costs for the budget were designed for temporary or emergency use and are inadequate for a permanent iet because they provide only the barest essentials.
Finally, the government statistics have failed to take into consideration nonmonetary benefits and assets in determining the number of poor. If these areas were considered, the numbers in the official poverty statuses would reduce. There continues to be a growing gap between the poverty level and median family income which reveals the inaccuracy of adjusting a poverty level for price increases but not for the rising living standards and efficiency gains. Alternative definitions and concepts also have a major impact on the poverty estimates.
If transfer payments or income support programs such as social security are not counted, then in 1988 about twenty percent of American families lived in poverty. Government income transfers are, however, included in the official poverty index, and this reduced the relative number of poverty stricken Americans. “If in-kind programs such as Medicaid, subsidized housing, and food stamps were also included, then the percentage in poverty might have been reduced yet further. ” (Fitchen, page 97) Another challenge is that minority groups are more likely to experience poverty than others.
For instance, African Americans are three times as likely to be poor as Caucasians. Families headed by women are nearly five times more likely to be poor than other families. Families where the head of household has no more than eight years of schooling are nearly five times as likely to be poor as compared to families headed by a college educated person. Minority and female heads of household units are not only more likely to be poor but less likely to escape from poverty facing multiple obstacles to self-sufficiency, including unemployment, less than a high school education, and dependence on welfare.
The poor are categorized into four different groups; elderly, children, employed working age adults and unemployed working age adults. Each group has different areas the need addressed by different programs. Because few elderly are consistently employed, this is said to be the main cause of poverty among the elderly. Some are willing able and do work but most cannot. There are an increasing number of elderly people that are living alone and must support themselves. In today’s day and age, the elderly are living longer and meeting their income needs becomes burdensome.
Often the best practicable way to help is income support. Their health care needs must be met. Statistics show that two of five persons classified as poor are children under the age of 18 this fact is alarming because poor children who are denied opportunities from the beginning of life are unfairly challenged in preparing themselves to be successful adults. Most low-income families are often driven to poverty by having additional children. Our society ignores the need to set wages and help provide child care for women so they can work to earn higher incomes.
Poor children often tend to have special needs beyond those of higher incomes. Most importantly being health care and education. Education or vocational training is a key stepping stone to permanent freedom from poverty. Often overstated, the unemployment problem remains a major contributor in poverty. “The poor are victims of forced idleness more frequently than the non-poor. Poor family head of households are about five and a half times more likely to become unemployed than those who are not poor. ” (Katz, page 71). Adequate income is not guaranteed by employment, many work full time year round and are still poor.
This results from poor paying jobs along with large families and long periods of unemployment. Labor market complications are also a factor in poor working people’s challenges. In 1988, 40% of all working poor persons could not overcome poverty. One-fifth of all poor families had two or more salary earners but still remained poor. This was the case for my family. Both my husband and I were employed with one child and had a very hard time making ends meet and move up professionally or socially. Some of the problems the working poor face are frequent joblessness, low wages, insufficient education, and inadequate skills.
The trouble of the waged poor can be improved by employment programs that simplify the operation of the labor market, increase the productivity of low-income workers, and create opportunities for employment and advancement. Legislation to eliminate discrimination must also be enforced when such employment and training programs are implemented. Often the necessary goods and services sometimes are not available on the market and alternative goods are a more effective way to provide essential aid. For example, low-cost housing is not rofitable to construct and will not be provided by the private sector of the economy without government action. Granting housing to the poor, which is desperately needed to combat homelessness, in the absence an increase in affordable housing supply might raise rents on existing units as we saw in the 1980’s. While the government does offer other services not so much as to lessen the suffering of today’s poor as it is to increase the opportunities of their children to escape poverty. Helping families to avoid having more children than they desire is one of the most productive ways in eliminating poverty.
Proper care of the mother and child is important so the young will be healthy. I was fortunate enough to receive free birth control and parenting classes through my city’s health department. The government also provides compensatory education. Overall, separating the impact of these programs upon the beneficiaries is not always easy. Birth control and maternal care are planned to give children a jump start in life which will also leave the mother in a better position to become economically independent or self- sufficient even at the least be able contribute to her own support.
The various strategies for helping the poor complement each other. Not only must today’s poverty be relieved through monetary aid, educational support or housing. The necessary steps must be taken in order to reduce poverty in the future. We must prepare our children and equip the poor with tools to become successful in society.
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