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Comparing and Contrasting the Lives of Poor People During the Industrial Revolution and the Lives of Poor People in the 21st Century


Poor people in the industrial revolution experienced poverty whose causes cut across factors such as inadequate job opportunities, low wages and poor working conditions (ElainaIsabelle, 2012). While the industrial revolution sought to transform lives by offering better economic opportunities, poverty was still prevalent. Similarly, in the 21st century, despite the contemporary advancement in technology, industries, and essential laws that govern labour and the economy, many Americans still live beyond the poverty level.

The lives of poor people during the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution introduced several job opportunities, primarily within factories and mills. However, labor shortage was a significant problem despite the many job opportunities since the adult population could not fully match the labor demand. Also, factories and mills could not offer adult workers sufficient payments and therefore substituted began engaging children in adult labor, working ten to 14 hours per day with low pay (ElainaIsabelle, 2012). Poverty was also exacerbated by various factors associated with child labor, such as developing health issues among children due to poor working conditions. Most children developed spinal issues as they spent many hours seated or standing working various jobs in factories (ElainaIsabelle, 2012). Moreover, society was raising a population of illiterate people since children were not allowed to go to school. Consequently, the society sunk into poverty since it was impossible to acquire education and potentially advocate for changes in the labor system. Children worked for the few people in the more prosperous class that owned factories and mills, resulting in a considerable gap between the large population of the poor and the rich.

The lives of poor people during the 21st century

Poverty in the 21st century has primarily been associated with significantly low wages, inadequate housing and longer working hours. In 1999, people expected wages to be rising as the economy was still in n boom with full employment (Meansofproduction, 2007). However, the economy created jobs that people earned (7 dollars per hour), a salary they could not live on Meansofproduction, 2007). For instance, Gail worked full-time as a restaurant waitress but could not afford to pay for a house and instead lived in a car in a parking lot (Meansofproduction, 2007). In addition, restaurant workers also had to pay for lunch at the workplace despite the little earnings and no compensation for overtime work. An elite class also exists that works better jobs and seems to be unaware of the poor people’s problems. For instance, they believe that philanthropy is enough to provide housing for populations (Meansofproduction, 2007). Yet the poor people who give much of their talent, energy and time working for lower-paying jobs consider themselves the real philanthropists. Healthcare is also unaffordable for poor people during the 21st century.

Who had the more difficult life, and why

In the Industrial Revolution era, poor people lived more challenging lives than poor people in the 21st century. People in both eras experienced pretty much the same problems, such as poor payments and longer working hours. However, the industrial revolution era involved hard labor and working with dangerous machines that could potentially cut off children’s hands or fingers and develop health complications associated with poor working conditions (ElainaIsabelle, 2012). In addition, children in the 21st century must go to school, which was substituted by hard labor in the industrial revolution era.


Poor people experienced complex lives both in the Industrial Revolution and the 21st century. People worked for salaries they could not live on and still do. The ruling class in both eras has always oppressed poor people out of self-interests. However, there has been a significant improvement in the 21st century, including abolishing child labor and labor laws that dictate the minimum wage. However, the economy and labor legislations still need adjustment to improve the livelihoods of poor people in the 21st century since a larger population of the Americans is also living in poverty. There is a need to end problems in the labor system that have been carried on for decades.


ElainaIsabelle. (2012). The Industrial Revolution: A Boon to Industry, A Bane to Childhood [Video]. Youtube.

Meansofproduction. (2007). Nickel and Dimed from The American Ruling Class! [Video]. Youtube.


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