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The Causes and Effects of Poverty

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“What is poverty? Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom” (The World Bank, 2009).

People are deemed poor if their incomes are insufficient to obtain the basic necessitates for themselves or their families. The most common and stereotypic explanation of poverty is the poor cause their own poverty because in America anything is possible if you want it. This “blame the poor” point of view is does not apply to all poverty stricken; a big misperception is that the poor do not work. Not only are most poor people able and more than willing to work hard and they do so when given the chance. The fact is nearly half of the poor populations of working age do work even if it is minimal and millions of them work full-time. The decline in wages is very hard on families with dependent children. Because of changes in our economic structure availability of well-paying blue collar jobs in manufacturing companies is limited. Most industries are outsourcing to other countries to minimize labor costs and using machines to replace workers. Therefore younger adults, particularly those who have very little education are forced to work in service oriented jobs for lower pay, no benefits and no chance for promotion. Because minimum wage does not keep up with inflation, it is nearly impossible to earn enough to keep families out of poverty.

As a result of the minimal and part-time work performed most often health care benefits either through the employer or government paid health-care is not available. Although many were qualified for Medicaid they usually do not apply due to simply not being aware that they are eligible or they may think their current situation is temporary so applying is not necessary. Not having health insurance is a very serious issue for poverty stricken families, having the availability of suitable healthcare can prevent chronic health problem allowing them to work.

According to an NCPA study, a great deal of Americans living in poverty share many characteristics. Education:
The best long-term solution to poverty is to get an education. Experts say that educating children, most importantly the girls, is the answer breaking the cycle of poverty. The 2001 census bureau report 22.2 percent of people without a high school diploma lived in poverty as opposed to 9.6 who had a diploma. 14.2 percent of high school dropouts were lived in long term poverty, while 3.8 percent of people with high school diplomas lived in long term poverty. In less affluent neighborhoods, there is usually no funding available to hire quality teachers and equipment needed to educate the youth. As we progress education has become one of the main keys to battling poverty. It is harder to earn a decent living without having some kind of special skill or degree. Single Parenting:

The study also showed that 8.6 percent of unmarried adults without children live in poverty whereas, 51.6 percent of unmarried adults with two or more children lived in poverty. Furthermore almost 80 percent of children that live in long term poverty come from some kind of broken home. This feminization of poverty may be related to numerous changes in contemporary America. The increase in unwanted births, separations, and divorces is leaving a large number of women to become heads of their households. In the meantime fathers are avoiding paying child support and welfare support is decreasing. Additionally, because wives normally live longer than their spouses, more elderly women are living in poverty. Violence:

There are some experts that believe poverty is the driving force that leads poor people to commit violent acts. The causes of this are many; among a few are anger, desperation, most of all the need for money for food, shelter, and other necessities. Other experts warn that the connection between poverty and crime is not so simple. People are motivated to commit crime because of poverty, yet it is not always a factor. Selling drugs and stealing to obtain money are just a few of many reasons crime is rapid in poverty stricken neighborhoods. Another form of crime is domestic violence. This is a much more troubling issue for women. A large number of women in low income households are beaten, and because of the violence they endure it is difficult to leave their life of poverty. As it has become more socially acceptable to seek escape from violent relationships this violence is now more likely to contribute to women in poverty.

Further, the government programs though they offer some assistance for a period of time under Family Violence but doesn’t assist with other obstacles that prevent women from working. Poverty is an ongoing issue we need to address as a society. It is easy for the middle and upper class citizens to say “get a job.” Just getting a job is not enough to help those in need. There needs to be a greater effort to educate citizens; making them more aware of the horrors of poverty. The government puts more into reducing dependency on welfare the past has focused on reducing the number of welfare recipients, but this alone does not assure a reduction in poverty.


Signorile, C. (2007). Identifying the Root Causes of Poverty. Retrieved March 10, 2009 from Constitutionally Right: http://constitutionallyright.com/​2007/​07/​13/​identifying-the-root-causes-of-poverty/. Web, P. (2009). Understanding Poverty. Retrieved March 09, 2009 from The World Bank, Poverty: http://go.worldbank.org/​rqbdctuxw0 CliffsNotes.com. Causes and Effects of Poverty. 15 Mar 2009

Nilsen, S. R. (2007). GAO. Retrieved March 15, 2009 from POVERTY IN AMERICA Consequences for Individuals and the Economy: http://www.gao.gov/​new.items/​d07343t.pdf.

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