What is a Social Problem?
If you turn a blind eye to your neighbors troubles, their fate could be yours come tomorrow
Social problems affect each and every one of us...
Somewhere in Beverley Hills a young woman named Sari cries because her liposuction has backfired, leaving her legs forever lumpy. In Detroit, 35 year old Brooke awakes to the realization her alarm never went off. It’s 10:16, her heart sinks, 16 minutes ago her dream job went down the drain when she didn’t show up to her interview.
Both Sari and Brooke are experiencing personal troubles, they will not burden society or planet earth with their woes, instead they will face their own consequences and move on.
When Ted lost his job he was optimistic, he figured he would find another. Months went by and Ted had no such luck. After a year of this, Ted became the third person in his neighborhood to flee in the night, his house now owned by the bank.
While Ted might feel alone in his situation, he is actually not alone at all. Unlike Sari and Brooke, Ted is experiencing a social problem- in fact so many people are in the same position as Ted that we all know someone- or at least the face of their house. But what really makes Ted’s troubles into a social problem is the fact that it negatively impacts so much more than just Ted.
Ted losses his job.
The government foots the bill for his unemployment.
In the mean time, local retailers lose the money Ted used to spend in their shops.
When unemployment checks stops, Ted can no longer pay for his home.
The bank has another foreclosure to deal with.
Ted files bankruptcy and lots of companies loss money.
Ted’s neighbors find their own house values plummeting due to all the foreclosures.
Simply stated, one man losing his job and being unable to find another created problems for lots of other people. This is what we call a social problem.
Poverty is a Social Problem
15% of Americans are currently living in poverty. We have not seen rates this high since 1993.
Some people in poverty are employed, others are seeking employment, and a couple have all but given up. Regardless, when a large number of people are poor, the homeless community increases, the shopping decreases, the government collects less taxes, and crime rates go up. Once recognized as a social problem, we can start asking: how and why does poverty happen? No one wants to be in poverty, so do some people get stuck there?
Generally speaking, it's one of these two ways:
1. There are not enough jobs for everyone- all skill levels included
2. The jobs available do not pay a living wage
Minimum Wage is a Social Problem
The minimum wage varies by State in the US but I know that no matter where you live it’s never enough to pay the bills. Especially with a family to take care of, childcare costs more than minimum wage pays.
Imagine this: your spouse suddenly leaves you and you’re left alone with your young child. The only place you can find a job pays minimum wage. Thrilled to at least be earning something, you rush to enroll your child in a daycare center, only to discover the cost of childcare trumps what your paycheck will be. Your other option? Collect welfare benefits, which are slightly less than your paycheck would be working but without childcare costs, you're in a better position and besides, you will be with your kid all day- the best thing for their developmental health.
Collecting benefits might be dehumanizing, but many logical, dedicated mothers are making the decision to live off of welfare. It is the states duty to pay her the money to live but we the state can't afford that. Therefore, the state is paying more money so that business owners can pay their employees too little to live, not so that people can "skip out on working" as has been stereotyped. The minimum wage creates a problems for everyone, even those who have never worked a minimum wage job in their life.
High School Dropouts are a Social Problem
Did you know that every week 7,000 more kids will drop out of school in America? That's 28,000 more uneducated individuals running the streets each month, this isn't good if America wants to stay a world power.
The overwhelming number of dropouts makes this a social problem. In order to decrease the growing number of uneducated Americans we have to stop blaming and start asking- why do they drop out of school? What are the benefits for them? Has anyone really explained the consequences to them? Where are the parents of these children? Are they drop outs themselves?
Only then can we understand why SO many are making the same decision to leave school, to cut their lifeline to success.
When AIDS becomes recognized as a social problem, the media works to de-stigmatize it with campaigns like this
The Manifestation of a Social Problem
AIDS originated out of the tropical rainforests of Africa, and for those first few humans infected, it was a huge personal issue. They didn't understand why they were sick or what was happening to them, they were alone in their suffering. They died and nothing changed.
And then, AIDS spread- infecting people all the way into the United States. The failed immune systems of young men were becoming a pandemic in hospitals everywhere, as doctors scrambled to find the answers.
Quickly, people began to associate AIDS with young gay men,sparking a fear that gave people another reason to attack the gays, to blame them for their own disease- in this case, AIDS. Unbeknownst to these irrational and judgmental folks, straight men, women, and children were also being infected by the disease. For a short time, many sick patients went undiagnosed because doctors assumed only gay men could contract AIDS.
As our education about AIDS grows, we stop blaming individual people for their disease and start to acknowledge the disease as a social problem, one that many have to unfairly suffer through. Anyone could be a victim of AIDS, anyone who's ever had a partner, who's ever been to the hospital, who's ever lived a normal life. Signifigant others lie, cheat, they remain unaware of their own disease, and hospitals have accidentally injected patients with dirty needles. And just like that, you become someone with AIDS.
AIDS went from being a personal problem to a social issue as soon as it began spreading, infecting enough people to cause larger issues.
Better World for Everyone
Recognizing something as a social problem helps decrease blame and hostility towards those that are already going through a tough time. The next time you hear about a high school drop-out, don't blame and judge them, see life through their eyes. Here you will discover obstacles and perceptions you never imagined because perhaps your own life has been so different. Once understanding is reached, that's when compassion can be found. And out of compassion comes positive social change.