There is a strong debate in our society about the long lasting effects of poverty in the United States. Today the official poverty rate is 14.5%, meaning that 45.3 million Americans live in poverty. A study measuring economic insecurity found that 4 out of 5 people in the United States live in danger of poverty or unemployment at some point in their lifetime. Poverty is an issue that requires immediate action because it negatively affects education, child development, crime, and social mobility, among other things.
Studies show that a child’s background has a significant effect on their performance in school. It is far more likely for children who come from higher-income families to perform better in school. By the end of primary school, students in need of free school meals are estimated to be approximately three terms behind their wealthier peers.
Similarly, children who come from impoverished families are more likely to have poor health and mental illnesses as they grow older. It is also shown that children living in constant poverty often have the most trouble with cognitive development.
This may be due to the lack of social skills caused by not being able to participate in activities or learning opportunities that come with a cost.
Another direct effect of poverty that puts everyone at risk is that teenagers living in a family where the head of the household is unemployed are more likely to participate in criminal behavior, such as stealing or resorting to violence. Even if the teenagers come from low-risk backgrounds, they still have a higher chance of engaging in violence.
There are some aspects of life that we may not always have control over. For example, social mobility is defined as moving from one social class to another. Children born into poverty generally have low social mobility because when their parents aren’t making enough money, they are unable to provide their children with necessary attention and resources. Ultimately, this makes it extremely difficult for them to build a better life for their children. Thus, these children grow up to be poor, just like their parents, and the cycle continues.
In “Social Class in Public Schools,” Hochschild examines the influences of socioeconomic class differences in education. The studies that he mentions support the theory that wealthier people are more likely to have a better education than poor people. Wealthier schools have better facilities, more resources, and higher quality teachers, proving that those in the upper class have an unfair advantage. By including this information in my research, I am able to build on the idea that poverty is an ongoing cycle; if a child grows up impoverished, he/she is more likely to remain that way throughout adulthood (Hochschild, 2003).
Additionally, in “Concentrated Disadvantage and Beliefs About the Causes of Poverty: A Multi-level Analysis,” the authors state that everyone has their own individual explanations for the causes of poverty and inequality. Through the use of surveys and a Census, it is revealed that social stratification contributes to peoples beliefs about the causes of poverty. A study found that increased exposure to social conditions impacted whether people had sympathetic or antagonistic attitudes toward the poor. These findings add useful information to my research because they show that humans are so quick to judge those who are beneath us, rather than having a sociological imagination. In order to completely understand someone elses struggles, we must try to look at it from their point of view (Merolla, Hunt, & Serpe, 2011).
To add on to this, Moscovitch describes several possible solutions to poverty in “Poverty.” The various possibilities include creating more jobs, forming a guaranteed income, and increasing taxes for individuals and corporations with higher incomes. In the article, Moscovitch goes into detail on why these are possible solutions. He states that poverty is a complex issue that consists of housing, education, health, criminal justice, and racism. However, there are no mentions of gender or disability as factors (Moscovitch, 2015).
In order to further my knowledge on the complex issue of poverty, I looked at it from a theoretical perspective. The Functionalist perspective views society as a system with different parts that must work together in order to function. The theory is that those who suffer from poverty deserve it due to their lack of any beneficial skills. In a sense, though, poverty is actually needed in society because it is not possible for everyone to be rich we need balance.
Through my research, I have learned many things about poverty that I was not aware of before. Poverty affects almost every single person on Earth at some point in their lifetime and the numbers continue to grow each year. I agreed with the professional literature that I read because each article acknowledged the long-term effects of poverty and tried to come up with possible causes and solutions. Every human should be aware that if we continue to ignore the issue of poverty, rather than attempting to resolve it, we are essentially harming the future generation our children.