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Poverty's Uses in America

Updated on December 15, 2013

There are many things that American’s take for granted. A few of these include our freedom, our upper class living, and our easy lives associated with the two. Subliminally and sometimes even consciously, we don’t think of all of the difficulty that happens behind the scenes to give us this American dream living. Herbert J. Gans reveals this background culture in his article The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All.

This article explains thirteen examples of how the poor people in the United States contribute so much to our lives. Some examples include, they do the dirty jobs that we don’t like doing, they buy goods that we don’t usually buy which prolongs the life of items, they create jobs for other people that give them service, and they provide a way to look as if we are keeping the norms of society. By using these examples, Gans makes the argument that poor people are something that is a necessary part of the American life, and that is therefore why it hasn’t been eliminated easily. He says the poor are a group of people that we rely on to do all the things that we least like to do.

I think this is a compelling argument for why we still have such a large poor population. For me it is important that we address that we do have a problem with such a vast difference in the quality of living in America. I feel that if we have people that are in a such an unhealthy state and are not capable of getting out because or reasons like we cut welfare to keep them doing the “dirty jobs” of society, like Gans said some southern states do, or don’t help them by giving them opportunities to excel, then we need to change something. I don’t believe that we should install a socialist act to force the rich to give to the poor, but I believe there should always be a choice in every person’s life of whether or not they want to discipline themselves and make a difference in society.

However, if we are providing the poor with an option, and they are still choosing to now progress into a higher standard of living, then I don’t think we should be pressing to make their lives easier. This is something I think Gans would agree with. I think he agrees that we know we need the poor for how we live right now. He made a point to show that it is not something that we should keep this way, but that if we want to continue living how we are, then there will always bee a poor group of people. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when look at the overall status of America. Many pay to make a few wealthy, you see this in the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake. There are many people that live a day-to-day life while others bath in luxury.

Personally, I have spent a lot of time with the lower class population. People in poverty are stereotyped as being lazy drunks when in reality, many of them have had unlucky circumstances that have put them into their misfortune. I think this article was definitely an eye-opener for people that haven’t been with the people in poverty. It will help them realize how much Americans take for granted all the things we have. We need to remember that there are still many people out there that are in terrible circumstances that need help. I believe that is why Gans wrote this article, to remind Americans that we can move away from having a large population of poor people if we stop relying on things being handed to us in a seemingly effortless way. We need to become disciplined and do the dirty work ourselves.


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