For many years, the United States has been experiencing high rates of poverty due to various social and economic processes. The living standard in the United States has been rising for the last 45-years, with the GDP per capita doubling since the 1950s. Despite the country having wealthy people, the living standards for millions of people seem stagnated. Income inequality keeps rising—meaning that many people have been facing economic barriers, without real representation in the economic domains. Many Americans have been left out in the economic decision-making, especially when it comes to issues that determine the degree of earning in the same society. The US is among the richest country across the globe, but the level of income inequality that has existed in the country for the past three decades continues to intensify the rates of poverty. According to the 2019 Census Bureau reports, the poverty rate in the United States stood at 15%, meaning that over 50.2 million people were around the poverty belt (Hoynes et. 49). The rate of poverty, especially in the West Coast states continues to worsen every day, with federal and state governments failing in economic and social aspects in an attempt to reduce the rate of poverty. Some wealthy families have invested heavily in the United States to help lift the living standards of the people through offering employment opportunities, but the government has failed to combat the rising employment demands in the country. In America, social and economic processes such as large family structure and unemployment are in fact the main contributors to the high rate of poverty, but not personal shortcomings and attributes.
Social Processes Causing Poverty in the United States
The family structure has been the main cause of poverty not only in the United States but also across the entire world. There have been, however, significant changes in the family nuclear and the living arrangement for the people for the past few decades. For instance, since the year 1967 to 2003, the number of people living in families headed by females has doubled. However, this means that the number of single families has continued to increase at a high rate. As it stands now, the rate of families headed by single mothers is four times as it was three or four decades ago. The increasing changes in the family arrangement and the overall structure of the families have resulted in a high rate of poverty. Brady argues that the high rate of poverty in many states in the US has intensified due to rising demands and the single-parent family approach (162). Brady further states that extended and large families evident in the United States, especially for the immigrants and indigenous people has further increased the poverty rate high (159). For example, the statistics show that the poverty rate has been high for families with a large number of families.
Families headed by females have increasingly entered into an intense state of poverty due to declined opportunities for income generation as most women have less working time, experience, and declined commensurate income earning potential. Many families headed by single mothers in the United States face problems such as uneducated children due to a lack of enough financial resources to educate their children. In fact, high school fees have pushed many families with a large number of children towards the poverty line. The US government, together with other agencies needed to initiate enough policies that will enable single mothers to overcome income inequalities. The family structure has not been friendly for many families in the United States (Hoynes et. 53). However, it must be recalled that the poverty rate is not highly witnessed for single-mother families, but also for single men with children. The data indicates that the percentage of single mothers and single fathers with children and who are extremely struggling with poverty stands at 6.2% and 0.8% families.
While the United States government has initiated different measures to decline the rate of poverty, poverty has still persisted across different groups—with the largest and highest poverty rate for single families, and the rate of poverty has been evident for married families. The high rate of poverty has intensely been reflected by the families shifting towards single-headed families (Hoynes et. 56). Single-headed families mean that the income is only generated by only parents —meaning that a large portion of the income earned by single-parent goes to food, school, and clothing. In fact, it translates that many single parents have not yet attained proper balance in the labor force. Even the limited capital generated by such families does not primarily support all the needs of the people.
In the United States, the government has not yet attained a greater milestone in achieving education balance. In fact, education has been contributing factor towards the high rate of poverty evident in many parts of the states. For the last three decades, minority communities such as Latino and African Americans have not yet attained equal rights and opportunities towards education. since the era of great slavery and segregation, racial discrimination among the minority communities has further extended to various generations, resulting in a high number of uneducated minority people across America. Nolan et al argue that approximately 50% of the black people in the US aged between 80 and 50 years are living in poverty line due to limited access to education (132). majority of black Americans have attained low-level education, while others are yet to attain any level of education due to increased racial discrimination in district schools and limited financial resources to support education. low education attainment has forced many minority people to depend on unskilled employment opportunities to effectively sustain their living and that of their family members (Nolan et al. 124). Actually, unskilled people normally receive small wages that cannot meet their social welfare, food, and education. Further, the uneducated population has limited opportunities for employment—meaning that such families with uneducated children or parents have experienced a high rate of poverty.
Many scholars of the structural and cultural schools of thought have argued that cultural differences in the United States have fostered economic barriers for various groups, especially to women and children. The level of ethnicity among many Americans has formed grounds for gender identity and racial differences, which has acted as a block for women and children towards attaining the working class. Vacaflores claims that the rise of poverty among unemployed youths and women has greatly been contributed by the patriarchal social formation and structures that have resisted the inclusion of women into the working proportion (256). The workplace for many sectors in the United States has been heavily dominated by men.
The social welfare program initiated by the US government does not fully cater to the needs of all women and children. The social program has been selected, especially for the minority communities and immigrants. However, this can be heavily linked to gender discrimination has led to high-income inequality among the genders, and has further resulted in increased poverty rates. For this reason, women need to be well presented and included in social welfare to ensure that those in vulnerable neighborhoods receive social necessities such as proper education (Vacaflores 261). The policies should be initiated to ensure no further discrimination in the workplace, and that there is equitable sharing of resources regardless of gender or race.
The number of immigrants in the United States has been rising for the last three decades. Most of the immigrants coming into the US are less educated, while others have not attained any level of education. Most immigrants are less educated and do not speak English. However, this has made many immigrants miss many opportunities since they cannot secure jobs in English based workplaces. This means that many immigrants have to study basic skills such as reading and speaking English in order to secure employment opportunities in various sectors. Homan et al conducted a research study and found that many immigrants have fewer skills than native-born Americans, and cannot secure stable job opportunities in a competitive labor market (1032). For example, in 2000, approximately 17.4% of the immigrants living in the United States were living below the poverty line (Homan et al. 1035). The influx of immigrants in the United States for the last few years has been characterized by less education and is responsible for the high rate of poverty in America. In fact, for those immigrants who choose to acquire education in the United States, it takes many years before entering into the labor markets. This means that they depend on the social welfare programs to support their education and feed their families. This explains why a high rate of poverty is evident in west coast states, where immigrants dominants.
The United States is typically divided into two groups—those who were born in the country and are headed by native parents, and those who come into the United States, either to seek a green card or for their studies. The United States is the leading developed country with a high population of immigrants due to their foreign policies, and good relationship with developing countries. Most immigrants do not have the proper background in the United States and many of them end up being jobless. Research shows that the poverty rate in the United States for the native people has greatly fallen by 50% compared to approximately 12.4% of the immigrants (Lawrence et al. 107). This means that factors such as education for the immigrants have been contributing factors towards the declining level of education. Many immigrants do not have stable jobs, while others are living in poor conditions due to a lack of strong financial support.
Many immigrants have been high discriminated against not only in the education sector but also in the workplace. Many native Americans with business refer to immigrants as Aliens—meaning people with little skills and experience. Many workplaces have been dominated by Native Americans, leaving immigrants with no job employment. To some extent, the United States government has failed to address the issues of immigrants in relation to education and employment. The US government has not yet formulated strong education and employment programs to support a large number of immigrants without jobs. Many immigrants living without basic education are living on the poverty line. Lawrence et al argues that most of the immigrants in the United States, experiencing extreme poverty have no education (118). Lawrence et al further explains that there is a number of barriers to education facing immigrants in the United States, including lack of strong financial support for basic education necessities such as books, increased bias against female gender, and high level of discrimination in the education sector (121). Lack of education for the immigrants means that the majority miss great equalizer for poverty. This is because education is the gateway to well-paying jobs in the United States. The United States government needs to collaborate with UNESCO and other international actors to improve the education status for many immigrants arriving in the US. Notably, poverty can extremely threaten the educational attainment of many immigrants, but attaining good education can help in ending the state of poverty.
Economic Processes Causing Poverty in the United States
The high rate of unemployment evident in the United States has promulgated the rate of poverty for many people. Lawrence et al argues that 12% of the unemployment in the United States has contributed to high poverty, especially for the people without supportive families (106). Before, examining how unemployment has led to a high rate of employment, it is very important to outline some factors that have resulted in a high rate of unemployment in the USA. First, the economic recession such as the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly contributed to the high rate of unemployment. Many sectors such as Education, healthcare, and security have tremendously failed to meet the evident rising demand for employment for youths in America. Just as evident now across the world, the spreading of the COVID-19 pandemic has appeared like the economic recession that has intensified the rate of unemployment in the United States. Millions of people have lost their jobs, while thousands of business people have closed their jobs and others have scaled down the number of workers to minimize business losses (Lawrence et al. 112) Poverty has intensified for the families who have lost jobs due to economic recession. In fact, the United States government has done less to help those families overcome social and economic uncertainties, but still, the rate of poverty has continued to rise.
Across the world, the economic recession is contributing factor towards income inequalities, unemployment, and high living standards. The economic process characterized by a high level of education has been contributing factor towards rising trends and increased poverty in America. The economic growth has been declining due to a number of factors such as unemployment and a high inflation rate. With increased economic growth, many companies have found it difficult to support the rising demand for jobs and high wages. However, it means that declined economy has resulted in an absolute decrease in salaries and eventually led to pushing many people towards the poverty line (Nolan et al. 126). In fact, the standard of living has been rising, and with the government failing to balance the economic status, many people facing salary cuts found themselves struggling with rising living standards. The high rate of unemployment has significantly affected women than men. The economic vulnerability has failed to support the rising number of women seeking employment opportunities (Lawrence et al. 116). This translates that many families have been depending on men to provide for food, shelter, education, and other needs. Overall, it means that a large portion of salaries goes to cater to family needs, instead of helping open new opportunities for the family members.
Climate change continues to hurt the world in different ways and the United States has not been an exception. Climate change creates hunger through drought and flooding, and its effect has been contributing factor toward poverty cycling in the United States. Although the United States has not been greatly affected by climate change, those countries affected by global warming such as developing countries and which American depends on them for the supply of raw materials continues to pose a serious threat to the future of the US in terms of economic growth (Hoynes et. 59). Flooding and drought cause starvation, meaning that the United States keeps spending huge sums of money to cater for food and other basic needs through social welfare programs.
Government Taxation and Transfer Programs
The US tax and other social transfer programs represent a critical source of income for many poor people in the United States. Among the poor, the main source of the transfer programs that have been provided by the US government through Temporary Assistance, especially to the needy families come from low and middle-income families. Since the US government provides cash benefits directly to poor people, they have a direct effect on poverty and income. The impact comes through changing people’s behavior. The transfer programs have made many poor people develop the tendency of relying on the government for support. Many immigrants depending on cash transfer programs do not focus on securing stable employment that can uplift their living standards. Hoynes et argues that the structure of the US government, especially towards supporting the vulnerable people does not directly help uplift the standards of people since it only focuses on offering basic support that cannot assist in providing all the needs for the people (63).
In summary, social and economic processes such as large family structures and unemployment are now the leading causes of poverty in the US. United States government must address poverty as an emergency social issue by ensuring economic and social balance. Many Americans have been left out in the economic decision-making, especially when it comes to issues that determine the degree of earning in the same society. The US is among the richest country across the globe, but the level of income inequality that has existed in the country for the past three decades continues to intensify the rates of poverty. Many families headed by single mothers in the United States face problems such as uneducated children due to a lack of enough financial resources to educate their children. In the United States, the government has not yet attained a greater milestone in achieving education balance. Education has been contributing factor towards the high rate of poverty evident in many parts of the states. Poverty has intensified for families who have lost jobs due to economic recession. The United States government has done less to help those families overcome social and economic uncertainties, but still, the rate of poverty has continued to rise. The transfer programs have made many poor people develop the tendency of relying on the government for support.
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Homan, Patricia, Lauren Valentino, And Emi Weed. “Being and Becoming Poor: How Cultural Schemas Shape Beliefs About Poverty.” Social Forces 95.3 (2017): 1023-1048.
Hoynes, Hilary W., Marianne E. Page, And Ann Huff Stevens. “Poverty in America: Trends and Explanations.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 20.1 (2006): 47-68.
Nolan, Laura B., Jane Waldfogel, And Christopher Wimer. “Long-Term Trends in Rural and Urban Poverty: New Insights Using a Historical Supplemental Poverty Measure.” The ANNALS of The American Academy of Political and Social Science 672.1 (2017): 123- 142.
Vacaflores, Diego E. “Are Remittances Helping Lower Poverty and Inequality Levels in Latin America?” The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance 68 (2018): 254-265.