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Poverty in America

Updated on October 16, 2010

For millions around the world, the United States of America represents a land of opportunity in which anyone can achieve their dreams of prosperity. As a result, the U.S. has the highest immigration rate of any country in the world. While America still holds great appeal, the realities of life in the U.S. for both immigrants and natural born citizens display a stark contrast to the time-honored view of America’s street being “paved with gold”. With increasing numbers of Americans living in poverty, the once great nation is faced with the question of how this came to pass.

Poverty in America is not a new occurrence; in fact, it has always existed despite the affluent facade displayed to the world. Every society is composed of various classes of people ranging from the underprivileged to the aristocratic. The percentages of the population living within each of the class levels usually shows that a majority live within the middle to lower brackets, which is the station of the “working class”. The issue facing the U.S. is the more of the working class families are shifting into the underprivileged group and the disparity between the upper classes and the rest of population is increasing.

There are many factors to be considered when determining why poverty is becoming an epidemic in America and those applied depends upon the group being reviewed. Some common factors relate to education levels with those having better educational opportunities being  the most likely to succeed. In the case of immigrants and minorities, the effects of racism and intolerance must be included as causes for individuals to be unable to escape poverty’s grip. The greatest factor, however, lies not in circumstances of the individual, but in the refusal of Americans to acknowledge and address the problem as a result of pride and greed.

One commonly cited cause for the increase in poverty is the number of jobs being outsourced to other countries. While this is a direct cause for those individuals who have become unemployed, the underlying issue is the dehumanization of business practices. When a corporation’s primary focus is to improve profits, the company will always seek to reduce operating costs. While this is a standard business concept, the reductions in payroll and human resources are often applied without considering the effect on the employees and in turn the overall economy. While the cuts provide the business, executives, and shareholders with significant profits, the workforce and general economy suffers resulting in the growing disparity between the classes.

Poverty is becoming an epidemic in America because of the refusal to acknowledge and address its existence. Americans insist upon placing blame on external causes for these economic issues rather than reviewing the actual circumstances that led to this situation. By changing our focus from individual, materialistic pursuits to more philanthropic endeavors, it is possible to rescue the country from the economic disease it suffers. The first step in this process, however, is to recognize the source and remember that people are more important than profits.


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    • Tracey D. profile image

      Tracey D. 7 years ago

      I would like to add one more thing. Now that I've had no choice but to live on the other side of the fence, and had to live on welfare. How can a family live off of $3,339.00 a year. How can you pay rent, bills, purchase clothing to look presentable for a job interview. America have now truly become the have and the have not.

    • Tracey D. profile image

      Tracey D. 7 years ago

      You couldn't have said it any better. Your more articulate than I am and I thank you for this. I moved to Georgia 4 years ago, with no fear with my children. Since I've been here, I have been robbed of the things that I brought with me from Philadelphia. Had to live in a shelter, apply for welfare for the first time in my life. And now I know another side I have never known before. Now the welfare is over and I still can't find a job and this has been going on for over 2 1/2 years. I sit hear and wonder why is it sports, and entertainment is so important and what Michele Obama is wearing this weak is so much more important that the lively hood of everyday people. Besides if it wasn't for the working class, corporations wouldn't have a product to produce without our labor. I hope we can come up with a plan that can shake the tree of greed.

    • spconlin profile image

      spconlin 7 years ago from Wisconsin


      I can understand your reservations about the statistics. When defining poverty, researchers use specific monetary guidelines and, as you point out, they equal a certain percentage of the bottom. I am less wary of this issue, because I suspect that the number isn't so much a representation of the lowest end of a scale, but instead the amount of money needed to maintain the necessities of life. Although in that respect, the poverty level seems to be set a bit low. Can a family of three really afford an adequate living space, transportation, and food on $18,310.00 per year in this economy?

    • spconlin profile image

      spconlin 7 years ago from Wisconsin


      I think the opposition rises from trying to define what a person's "fair share" should be. Some would define it and a single price paid by everyone. Others view "fair" as charging more for the people who can afford it. I can see both sides of the issue, but I am definitely in favor of the progressive tax system.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I am always a bit wary of stistics on poverty. Since it is always based on the bottom then no matter how high up the bottom goes it will still be the bottom.

    • Captain Jimmy profile image

      Captain Jimmy 7 years ago from WV

      It sad how many are oppressed in this country!\

      Proverbs 14:21 He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.

      Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

      Proverbs 17:5 Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

      Proverbs 18:23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.

      Proverbs 19:1 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.

      Proverbs 19:4 Wealth maketh many friends; but the poor is separated from his neighbour.

      Proverbs 19:7 All the brethren of the poor do hate him: how much more do his friends go far from him? he pursueth them with words, yet they are wanting to him.

      Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

      Proverbs 21:13 Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

      Proverbs 22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

      Proverbs 22:9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

      Proverbs 22:16 He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.

      Proverbs 22:22 Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 7 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub Spconlin. I agree with everything that you wrote. I would just like to add that the disparity between the rich and poor has been exasperated by the erosion of our progressive tax system. The rich are now allowed to keep much more of their wealth while the percentage of the tax burden has grown rapidly for the middle and lower classes. It's now looked on as evil and socialist for the rich to pay more. They earn an excessive amount via the sweat of the lower classes. Why shouln't they pay more to benefit society? I guess noblesse oblige is dead.