America is always projected as a world superpower, a developed nation with rich people. Something as downtrodden and unfortunate such as poverty is never associated with America. However, the truth is a far cry from this assumptions and indications. According to a report published by U.S. Census Bureau, there are a whopping 39 million poor people in America. Out of these, 13 million are children. Poverty rate in America often fluctuates between 13 to 17%, and has never seen an improvement in the past 20 years. Causes of poverty in America greatly vary from those in underdeveloped countries. This article focuses on some of the main causes of poverty in America.
While the term ‘poverty’ may conjure images of destitute people living in deplorable conditions, this very term assumes a new dimension when we speak of poverty in the United States. Indeed, there are many impoverished people who have to live in a deprived state, but majority of these 39 million people could have passed as ‘well off’ about 30 years ago. However, the definition of ‘poor’ primarily revolves around the purchasing power of an individual. It may not be always related to fulfillment of basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. In that context, one has to consider the purchasing power of an individual with respect to that of average population. In that case, these 39 million people are deprived of many material, social and welfare needs which majority of the population enjoys. Just as the definition of poverty changes as per the context, the causes of poverty also differ in that sense. While population explosion, lack of infrastructure, corruption, natural disasters, political instability, war are some causes of poverty in the third world countries, poverty in America is influenced by far different causes. Given below are some factors which contribute to poverty in America.
Earlier, American economy was greatly dependent upon manufacturing industries such as steel, textile, automobile etc. These industries presented number of opportunities to uneducated but capable labor. Most of the workforce constituted of African Americans. However, this scenario has undergone a sea change with the emergence of new economical sectors such as Health Care and Information Technology. As a result of this, the reliance of American economy on traditional manufacturing sector reduced. These sectors demanded highly educated and trained professionals. This eventually, led to loss of business opportunities for the minimally educated workforce.
Although, unemployment is one of the causes of poverty, it is an altogether different social issue. Unemployment stems from various social, economical conditions. As mentioned above, shift in business economy is one cause of unemployment for a particular section of society. However, apart from that, there are several other factors which lead to unemployment. It is hard to ignore that majority of impoverished people are either unemployed or only part-time employed. Only 2.5% of poor people come from a full-time workforce. These figures indicate how a person’s financial state is influenced by his employment status. The incidence of high school dropouts is in congruence with the rate of poverty. Lack of education flatly translates to lack of employment opportunities, which eventually leads to poverty. As the demand for laborious jobs diminished, uneducated people were left to welter in poverty. As these people neither had education nor did they acquire any skills required to sustain in changed economical scenario, they were driven into the vicious circle of poverty. This again constituted a large number of black people. Most American cities have sprawled to outskirts, leading to creation of suburbs. Suburbs offered better living condition to people. Naturally, many businesses shifted their bases to the newly developed suburb areas. Those who stayed back in the core cities faced a steep shortage of employment opportunities. This eventually forced them to live in impoverished conditions. Increased divorce rate means more number of families headed by women alone. Often, these women are unable to take care of their families single handedly. Lack of education, unplanned or out-of-wedlock pregnancies compound the problems of single women. As a result, they cannot find suitable employment to run their homes. Obviously, the entire family then gets dragged into poverty. The constant rate of poverty over decades indicates that there is no enough willpower to address this issue, either at personal level or at bureaucratic level. Some sections of poor people make no attempts to improve their condition whatsoever. They not only force their progeny to live in deplorable conditions, but they also pass this unfortunate attitude to them. The end result is, generations of poor people living in destitute conditions. These people are reluctant to interact on a social level, thereby thwarting all attempts to improve their condition. Crime, drug abuse, mental illnesses are often falsely considered as causes of poverty. However, these are not the causes but effects of poverty. In America, discrimination at various levels such as social, racial, economic, is a major factor responsible for poverty. Most of the above causes of poverty in America stem from inequality. Hence, steps must be taken to bring various societal elements on an equal footing, so as to reduce poverty.
Racism does strongly exist in 21st century America. America was founded to be a place for people to escape from oppression and dominance, but Americans let themselves be constantly oppressed and dominated by racism. America still deals with the issue of racism because Americans are intolerant of other races. Many Americans hate immigrants because they supposedly take their jobs away from them. Many people are closed minded when it comes to changing their feelings about people of other races or getting to know them. These people give into the negative stereotypes of other races and ethnicities despite the fact that most of them are untrue.
As an immigrant, I endured a lot of racism growing up. I was laughed at and teased in school because of my foreign looks and features. When I’d tell people I’m Middle Eastern, they always assumed I am Muslim. Today, I am discriminated against when I job hunt since Americans only want to hire their own kind. I even have a hard time making friends since Americans don’t want to get to really know me.
It can be argued that racism doesn’t exist anymore since we have a black man running for president. However, many people predict that Barack Obama will be assassinated like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X if he wins. We may have a black candidate, but this is the first one in almost fifty elections, and who knows when another black candidate is going to come along.
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