Povertyin American Family
Povertyin American Family
Currentstatistics on poverty in America
TheUnited States government has incorporated family in its statistics,views and definition of poverty. However, majority of the statisticson poverty mention poverty in families briefly. Despite this, howpoverty affects families in America and other parts of the world isan increasingly important research and policy issue. This is mainlybecause the family is the basic unit of the society, meaning poorfamilies is an indication of a poor nation. Poverty is based on thetotal income of the family. In the year 2012 for example, thegovernment set the poverty level at 23,050 US dollars annually per afamily of four individuals. This means that a family with an incomeof less that this figure annually is living below the poverty line.Every country has a poverty level, which changes frequently dependingon among other things the microeconomic status of the nation.Statistics indicates that majority of American families have spent orwill spend at least one year below the poverty level. Also familypoverty and poverty in general is more persistent in the inner cityareas in major urban centers and in rural areas in general comparedto the suburban neighborhoods (John, 2012).
Accordingto the US Census Bureau report of 2012, at least sixteen percent ofthe American population lives below the poverty line. The report alsoestimated that about a fifth of children living in American familieslive in poverty. This translates to over 43 million children, one ofthe highest figures in recent history. Recent statistics alsoindicates a consistent increase in relative poverty among Americanfamilies since 1980s, where America has more poor families comparedto other developed countries. It is also estimated that familypoverty has significantly affected children upbringing where over 16percent of American children are brought up in food insecurefamilies. Additionally, the number of homeless individuals hasincreased significantly, an indication of increased family poverty.In the late 2000s, it was estimated that over six hundred thousandAmericans were homeless. Majority of these people are sheltered inemergency houses provides by the government while the rest live inabandoned structures, city streets or other structures that are notconsidered human shelter. Also, over one and half million Americans,which is about half percent of the American population lived inemergency shelter between 2008 and 2009. This is a clear indicationthat a good number of American families cannot afford basic this suchas proper housing (Abramsky, 2013).
Inthe mid 20th century, there were about 40 millionAmericans living in poverty which accounted for about 22 percent ofthe United States population. The figures decreased gradually in the1970s reaching an all time low of 11 percent of the population belowthe poverty line in 1973. However, in the 1980s, increase gradually. Between the late 1980s and the mid 2000s, the percentage ofindividuals living in poverty in the American society ranged between12 percent and 13 percent. Since mid 2000, there has been a gradualincrease in poor Americans rising to about sixteen percent in 2012. Despite this, statistics indicates that poverty among the agedmembers of the Americans society, aged above 65 years, has declinedsignificantly in the last 50 years. On the contrary, poverty amongAmerican children has been on the increase, indicating higher povertylevels among young American families. It is also important to notethat poverty has been higher among families headed by single womenthroughout history. There have been massive changes in the structuresof the American families in the second half of the 20thcentury. The number of families headed by a single parent tripledbetween the late 1950s and late 2000s, from about 11 percent to about33 percent. This includes families headed by a single father ormother. This is one of the most important factors that have led to anincreased poverty among American families (Abramsky, 2013).
Importanceof addressing poverty related problems from a family perspective
ForAmerica to reduce poverty level and improve its economy, it isimportant for its government to address the problems related topoverty from a family perspective. This is because poverty is themain contributor to a lot of the many severe problems facing theAmerican families who earn low income. The United States economy iscomprised of workers who form its economic backbone. Therefore,failure to address family poverty negatively affects the Americanworkers whose economic security is not assured which in turn dragsback the economy of the United States (Stephen, 2009). Also childrenfrom poor American families suffer a great deal because they are notimmune to the results of economic decline. They suffer from manyconstant, regular and serious health problems compared to childrenwhose families are well off economically. Most children born of poorparents normally have birth weight which is low, which is linked tomany avoidable physical and mental disabilities. These infants arenot only prone to be sickly or irritable, but also they are likely todie in their first year. If they are lucky to grow up and attain theage of going to school, they miss school frequently due to illness.They are also likely to have hearing and vision impairments, higherlevels of mineral lead in their bloodstream which could impair theirbrain function and anemia cause by iron deficiency. These factorscombined makes these children to either score very poor grades inschool or even worse still to drop out of school. Poverty is passedon to children from their parents, that is, from one generation toanother. Due to the problems that children from poor families face,they fail to get good quality education thus they are at a seriousdisadvantage in the employment market. This in turn makes them failto secure good paying jobs thus causing a sustained poverty (John,2012).
Moreover,there is a strong link between poverty and high stress levels infamilies. Studies have shown that earning low income that cannot meetthe family needs and the subsequent or job loss and the resultingpoverty are connected to the increased family violence which arebeing witnessed today, including elder and child abuse. In additionto being faced with financial uncertainties, these poor families aremost probably vulnerable to a sequence of bad occurrences andnegative events such as eviction, diseases, criminal victimization,job loss, depression or even death. Also, extreme poverty orhomelessness poses very strong risks for the affected families,particularly children. Homeless children do not get proper healthcare and immunization and lack good nutrition, thus they become sickmore often and suffer malnutrition. Homeless women suffermiscarriages or give birth to babies with low birth weight, a leadingcause of infant mortality. This is because they feed poorly whenpregnant and lack adequate access to prenatal and antenatal careduring and after their pregnancy (Barbara & David, 2007).
Thereare several real life situations that can explain the impacts ofpoverty on American families. Consider the life Ann, a teenager girlin senior high school. She lives with her mother who has had a hugeinfluence on her life. Her unemployed mother is also expected to takecare of her aging grandmother. They have not heard from Ann’sfather for many years since he was jailed. Ann believes that if herfather was living with them, they could not be depending ongovernment social services and charity. Stanley on the other hand hasboth of his parents, but they are both ill. His father suffered astroke some years back while her mother is partially disabled due toa recent accident. With her mother out of work and his father’shuge medical bill, the family financial status has been gettingworse. These real life cases highlight some of the challenges ofAmerican families living in poverty.
Theorieswhich provide an appropriate analysis of poverty as it relates tofamily
Thetwo theories that provide an appropriate analysis of poverty as itrelates to family are the structural theory and the individualistictheory. According to the structural theory, the poor people portraycertain types of behavior that are not generated internally becauseof their own distinctive values. However, their actions and behaviorsare influenced by certain external factors in the unfavorablelocations they live in the social structures that are restrictive.This means that the poor families behave differently from otherpeople who are well off in the society not because of the dominantvalues they have internalized but because they lack the opportunityto take in these values using the socially permitted avenues. Thepeople’s life chances and courses are normally influenced by theexternal social circumstances which surround them. Job marketopportunities, economic growth and educational facilities in anynation lay the foundation in which social relations as well as thepeople’s standard of living are normally established and enhanced.Other structures in the society which are intrinsic include socialrelations organizations such as gender, race, social class as well aspower. In other words, the structural theory of poverty describespoverty as a failure of the major economic and social structures inthe nation. One economic structural failure in the United States isthe failure of the labor market to create adequate job opportunitieswhich pay good salaries so as to keep the American families free frompoverty. Even though the unemployment rate in America is low, the jobmarket is flooded with part time jobs that are paying very poorly.Part time jobs also reduce time which would have been spent doingfull time jobs that are well paying. Another social structuralfailure and a key contributor to increased poverty in the Americanfamilies is the negligible quantity of the social safety resources inthe United States. While other developed nations spend more of theirresources in helping the poor, United States seems to be spendingless. The result is that poverty reduction is effective in thenations which spend more of their resources in poverty reductionprograms and measures (Bill, 2006).
Theindividualistic poverty theory explicate that poverty results from aperson’s intrinsic attributes that include the person’s lifeabilities such as brainpower or intelligence as well as the charactertraits of the person. This therefore means that the poor people inthe nation are poor because they lack the ability to compete for theavailable resources with the other people. Consequently, they areheld up in poverty and the problems related to poverty. For instance,people born with either physical or mental disabilities are unable tocompete effectively for resources in the country. These personaltraits are normally seen as the person’s failure to not come out ofpoverty. Debatably, the individualistic theory does not recognize thephysically disabled abilities to doing things which can get them outof poverty. If the physically disabled are unwilling to improve theircondition by doing things and happen to be comfortable with theirdisabilities, then they will live in poverty. The American familieswith disabled members should have them educated so as to acquire thenecessary skills required in the job market. Also, the governmentshould develop policies which will see even the disabled members ofthe society get equal job opportunities in the labor market. Thiswill help in reduction of poverty in families headed by disabledpersons. Arguably, the individualistic theory also does not recognizethat some people who seem to have intrinsic character traits linkedto poverty do not get poor themselves (Bill, 2006).
Abramsky,S. (2013). TheAmerican Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives.Nation Books. ISBN 1568587260.
Barbara,A. A. & David J. M. (2007). Childpoverty in America today,Westport, Conn.: Praeger.
Bill,J. (2006). ATheory of Poverty and Social Exclusion,New York, Wiley.
John,I. (2012). Povertyin America:ahandbook,Berkeley: University of California Press.
Stephen,P. (2010). A people`shistory of poverty in America,New York: New Press.