Poverty In America Research Paper Sample
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Since time immemorial, poverty has been a burning issue, and several frameworks have been implemented to fight this menace. There are different types of poverty, and when we are fighting it, we need to know the appropriate measures to put in place.
Definition of poverty
According to Amartya Sen, poverty can be defined as a complex, multifaceted world that requires a clear analysis in all of its many dimensions. He argues “We cannot draw a poverty line and then apply it across the board to everyone the same way without taking into consideration personal circumstances and characteristics.”(Iceland, 2014,P. 47). There are biological, social and geographical factors that are likely to reduce the impact of income on each person. Poor people lack many elements such as access to heath, land, education, justice, productive resources, family and community support. To Sen, a poor person does not live below the imaginary poverty line that is, an income below two dollars a day but an income level that does not permit a person to cover basic necessities considering the environment and social requirements.
John Iceland defines poverty as income or economic deprivation. He states, “Most people will agree that that the most used measure of poverty is the threshold that has lost meaning, and there is no real measure of poverty” (Iceland 2014. P.2). Federal threshold is almost inaccurate as it does not reflect on the standards of living, but it tries to define the needs of an individual. This measure is comprised of two elements, poverty threshold and the definition of these thresholds and how they relate to income of the family.
This can be described as a period of a person being in a poverty situation brought about by situational factors and events such as environmental factors, health problems or divorce. These events in most cases are beyond our control and leads to an individual losing all material possession and income. A person experiencing situational poverty in most cases has high level of education than an individual undergoing generational poverty. Such an individual is somehow familiar with the complex hidden social codes and rules, therefore this kind of knowledge can be of help to him or her when trying to get out of this situation. They are also likely to have a backup from their relatives, friends and community and this makes a very big difference to them. This kind of poverty is grueling because most people may have worked hard in their entire life and they are likely to get depressed when everything is being taken away once for no major reason. Humanitarians working with this kind of people are quick to point out that such events can be used as a lesson as they can easily strike anyone. (Iceland, 45)
According to Espejo, “Cocooning out of short-term poverty necessitates identifying and addressing the cause behind and trying to get employment that can help improve the situation”(2012,P.156) In America, such cases are handled by providing assistance in form of food banks, government benefits and job placements hoping that this can prevent people from stumbling into such cracks. If situational poverty is not dealt with in early stages, it has the potential to turn to generational poverty that is hard to get rid of.
Generational poverty, on the other hand, can be defined as a condition where an individual or a community has been in poverty for at least two or more generations. It vital to note the time factor as this enables us differentiate from situational poverty. Attitude is also a key factor in separating these two types of poverty as in generational poverty, the victim feels that the society owes him or her living but in situational poverty, their ego can’t allow them to need assistance and they permit pride to keep them from receiving assistance. This kind of paucity has its own cultures, belief system, and hidden rules. There are key factors associated with generational poverty one of them being hopelessness. Most people reason that poverty lacks resources to be able to meet basic living requirements. Individuals in generational poverty are also challenged with other forms of poverty which are parental poverty, spiritual poverty, and educational poverty. The collective effect of these forms of poverty leads to the most damaging consequences of poverty that is, the presence of hopelessness. “Hopelessness is considered a key factor in creating the vicious circle of poverty” (Espejo, 2012, P.155). Without hope, the belief and motivation that there is a way one can get out of this condition is very low. (Espejo, 156)
Persons in this circle focus only on survival. “They focus only on issues at hand and in many cases, it may be money for food, dealing with family problems, and finding a place to live” (Iceland, 2014, P.75). This process is a daily process whereby each day presents itself with other challenges. Most of this is done with urgency and planning does not exist in such a condition because planning is only possible to an individual who has time and sufficient control of life. In summary, there are some ways in which one can get out of this kind of poverty; first and foremost, education has to be a priority. School is the only place where students can learn about the rules of the middle class and certain choices in life. They also have access to people who are willing to help them. Being in poverty does not mean that one lacks intelligence or ability but they do not see the choices and if they do, they do not know how to access resources that can help them get out of poverty.
Early definitions of poverty
According to Iceland, “People who have an income below a certain level can be considered to be poor” (2014, P. 10) this level is called the poverty line meaning that a person is living below two dollars a day. Early views of poverty in America reflected on social conditions such that in the colonial era, the roots of poverty lay in individual misbehaviors. Poor people were thought to be poor were either deserving or not deserving the support of the public. Voluntary idleness was seen as a vice and unemployed men were often whipped and thrown out of town or put in jail. In Virginia, able-bodied persons who were idle were bound to compulsory labor while a court in Massachusetts ordered for punishments to those who spent their time idly. Many communities took responsibility for children and the elderly because hardship to them was viewed sympathetically.
Measurement of poverty
The most widely used measure of poverty is the federal poverty threshold. It is calculated by a multiple of a food budget. This is done by compiling the food plan of different household sizes by three to come up with a threshold of those particular families. The demerit of this system is that although the figures are attuned for inflation, the process of defining the federal threshold has always remained to be stagnant despite a change in the society. The relative measure is also used and defines poverty as a condition of proportional demerit. “The technique is up to date with the past records and dynamic views of poverty” (Haugen and Box, 2006, P.23) They mostly use the country as a point of reference but the standards of living change with the accordance to the communities and states. This is the current system that has been used in America since 2001 up to date and it minuses taxes but includes housing subsidies and food stamps. The definitions of poverty have helped the American society as the government has majored in those areas by trying to reduce the level of poverty among the affected people. Such areas have been well equipped with resources that are used to fight poverty. (Craig, Donna. “Looking forward and moving forward”: http// www.nccp.org. National Center for Children in Poverty, 9 Oct. 2014.Web.17 Jan. 2015)
Poverty in the American society is an issue that the Obama government has been fighting and I can say that they are almost succeeding because it has increased the level of employment and education has been made a basic necessity. If we choose to come out of poverty, we can overcome it, but if we choose not, then we remain poor because we have the intelligence to do so, it’s only through education and wise life choices.
Espejo, Roman. Poverty. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2012. Print.
Haugen, David M, and Matthew J Box. Poverty. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2006. Print.
Iceland John, Poverty in America. 3rd ed. California: University of California Press, 20014. Print.
Retrieved from http://www.povertyusa.orgttp
Retrieved from http:// www.nccp.org
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