The Effects of Poverty in Our World
All over the world, disparities between the rich and poor, even in the wealthiest of nations is rising sharply. Fewer people are becoming increasingly ?successful? and wealthy while a disproportionately larger population is also becoming even poorer. There are many issues involved when looking at poverty. It is not simply enough (or correct) to say that the poor are poor due to their own (or their government?s) bad governance and management. In fact, you could quite easily conclude that the poor are poor because the rich are rich and have the power to enforce trade agreements, which favor their interests more than the proper nations. This is a very serious problem in our society today. Poverty is everywhere and it needs to reduced so that our economy will be more stabilized and balanced that it has been.
What does it mean to be poor? What does it mean to describe a nation as ?developing?? A lack of material wealth does not define one as deprived. A strong economy in a developed nation does not mean much when a significant percentage or a majority of the population is struggling to survive. Development usually implies an improvement in living standards such that a person has enough food, water, and clothing, a stable social environment, freedom, and basic rights to have a fair chance for a decent life. Is this actually progress? On the other hand, are we fooled into believing that it is?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services placed the poverty level for a family of four at $16,450 in 1998, and the poverty rate in 1996, according to the HHS, was 13.7 percent, or 36.5 million Americans. (Egendorf: 1999, 12). Is there really a way to measure poverty, and to decide exactly what poverty is? Hunger, income level, housing and the economy?s condition of the working poor are just a few example of what needs to be considered when measuring the poverty levels in our nation. Poverty expands and contracts and its definition changes in accordance with temporary exigencies, including the interests of those who propound the definitions do the counting, which means that there is no concrete definition of poverty, except for the numbers. (Valentine: 1968, 13).
Poverty is not something that has just recently become an issue; it has been around for many years. The economy has been a major influence on the levels of poverty in our nation. In 1973, poverty increased because then the economy worsened. Real wages and productivity decreased, and the economy could not grow fast enough to absorb the large number of potential workers, which caused unemployment to increase (Katz: 1989, 154). Ever since then our government has tried to reduce the poverty in our nation, and so far has had a hard time. In 1996, Bill Clinton addressed the welfare bill, and that resulted in an estimated one million children being thrown into poverty (Egendorf: 1999, 19). However, assistance from the Government has also been helpful. Programs such as Social Security, Food stamps, housing assistance are safety nets that has helped lower the
high risk of poverty. Without these added benefits, people would be a lot worse than they are now. The safety net programs reduced the child poverty rate from 24% before the benefits were counted down to 16% (Egendorf: 1999, 19). Supplemental Security income, local general assistance, and earned income tax credits have also been popular components of income in the United States (Lynn, McGeary: 1990, 235).
Education levels are not as high in urban areas, which means that the people who are living in these areas are not qualified for the high paying jobs. High skilled jobs are beyond the reach of those who live in areas of concentrated poverty, and those who are going for the high skilled jobs, are finding their way out of these areas of concentrated poverty. Higher standard of living also attracts immigrants, which makes it hard for people living in urban areas to find good paying jobs, because the immigrants will work for lower wages.
What about the myth that America is the land of opportunity? With such a high standard of living, many believe this is not true (Shein: 1998, 13). Those who work hard and have the opportunity to be financially successful are rewarded with healthy, enjoyable lifestyles, while those who are disadvantaged and cannot receive these opportunities are punished and miserable. Disadvantaged does not mean those who are on welfare, or those who are too lazy to find work. People who have disabilities that make it hard for them to find jobs, and those that are born into poverty, who cannot escape it, must be tortured and remain helpless until a solution to this social problem is reached. In America, only 1% of the people own 50% of the wealth, 20 % of our children live in poverty, and a half a million people are homeless (Shein: 1998, 13). It is statistics like this that says our economic system depends on inequality in order to survive. How would this world be if the wealth were evenly spread out for all to share? What would we do without poverty? Our society has been deeply divided for so long that I think change would be too difficult to handle. An example of this is ? In 1985, 2 million adults worked full time throughout the year, yet they and their families remained in poverty (Katz: 1989, 243). However, the wealthy kept working all year long, and they became wealthier.
There are class systems to separate races, sex, and gender, but there is also a class system that distinguishes between the rich and the poor. These five classes consist of: 1. Upper/Capitalist-which are the wealthy, 2. Upper/Middle Class-which are the professionals, 3. The middle class-white collar, 4. The working class-semi-skilled workers and, 5. The chronically poor. So not only are people classified by their race, and gender, but they are also classified by their income and the type of lifestyles that they obtain.
The conflict theory states that poverty is a side effect of the capitilist system, where those with access to resources and power exploit those who don?t have the same type of access to maximize their profit. This results in employers paying their employees lower wages, and giving them the least amount of benefits possible. A surplus of laborers decreases the wages that each employee receives, and if the employers make investment decisions, without regard for the employees, then they are reducing costs for themselves and hurting their employee?s salaries.
Poverty is a very unfortunate lifestyle to have to suffer from. By saying that they have to suffer from it, I mean that they have no choice. There have been no successful solutions to this ongoing social problem, and our government has made many attempts.
However, they have not given up. The people who are living on the streets may be unimportant to those with no financial limits, but they have not been forgotten. According to the World Bank, the international plan to reduce poverty by half was originally supposed to be reached by the year 2015, but the high number of poor people is high, and they are spread out everywhere. The developing states are trying to recover, but the financial crisis? that have occurred have stunned the growth and opportunities that we are supposed to be facing. The conflict theory is not a solution to the problem of poverty; it is enabling it and making it harder to recover from. To start to reach a solution to this problem, I think that there should be more opportunities for those who are not able to receive the proper education and training to receive the good paying jobs. I think that employers should offer specialized training to employees so that they can further their knowledge of different position so that they will be able to move up in their companies. I also think that unemployment agencies should provide on the job training as part of the careers that they offer so that employees can learn a wide variety of skills incase one job doesn?t work out.
I know that whatever it takes to reduce the levels of poverty in our world, it will be a long, slow process. I think that if our nation sticks with it and does not give up, eventually our country will be known as the ?Land of Opportunity? again. With the developing of countries, and the growth of population, there is going to be an increase in
the amount of opportunities that will be available. Not every single person who is suffering from poverty will be motivated to take advantage of these opportunities, but the people who do, will greatly benefit from these arising chances at a new way of living. Hopefully, society will view those who suffer at the hands of poverty in a less discriminating way. Our nation must realize that because they may be poor, does not mean that they don?t deserve they same chances in life and are less of a human than those who have financial freedom.
2. Engendorf, Laura K. POVERTY, OPPOSING VIEWPOINTS. Greenhaven Press, 1999.