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What is a Social Problem?

Updated on August 20, 2012

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.

Here's How:

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.


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    • lmmartin profile image


      6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Perhaps you'd like to read one of my recent hubs: Dispatches from the edge of breakdown: #2 One forgotten veteran's story. And no, I do not have a masters degree. No outreach worker would have. It is the case workers who have the degrees, the ones that try to find us a few dollars here and there, the ones who put us in touch with those needing help. I suspect you're unfamiliar with outreach workers and caregivers -- we are just well-intentioned people doing the best we can.

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      That is so interesting Immartin! To do social or most outreach work where I live you have to have your masters degree and then County jobs pay around 40k a year starting. Far less than most other fields with a masters degree...

      But my hope is that the more people who know about the real faces of poverty, the more help will be made available to these organizations. People just need to realize how much they have in comparison- it's not fair at all and all of us could live with a little less so that everyone could have a comfortable life.

    • lmmartin profile image


      6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Not exactly, Becky. I am an outreach worker, a caregiver. At times, I am working for an agency who provides care to the elderly trying to stay in their own homes (a for-profit business) and other times the county, or a charitable organization, or a government agency. (The for-profits pay slightly more than the county -- "there's just no money!" -- or the charitable organizations, who have to split every dollar three ways. They are all under-funded.

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      immartin- you're an inspiration!! Dedicating your life to helping others is a beautiful thing :) I take it you are a social worker of some kind? No one works harder and receives less compensation than the poor/working class-- and yet their hard work goes unacknowledged and under- appreciated.

    • lmmartin profile image


      6 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      I work trying to deal with the consequences of these social problems, the impoverished handicapped, the mentally ill, the marginalized. Some of them live on $629 monthly (try it!) I help them sort out their problems, make sure they can eat, give them companionship and compassion, try to find help, fight with the medical industry, the various offices of charitable organizations as well as government. I do all this for a few cents higher than minimum wage myself. I DO understand!

    • StephenCowry profile image


      6 years ago

      Social problem is definitely an issue. Many people are suffering from this dilemma. They need some help by any means to get back to their confidence and everything. Nice hub!

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      I understand the lack of ":)" this is a frustrating topic-- especially for those of us that really understand how unfair it is-- ! While it's hard for older people to get jobs, it's also hard for recent college grads. We might have the diploma but we've spent so much time in school that we have no experience-- something employers are never happy about. Ugh! Thanks though Rich, I always enjoy reading your comments on things.

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      haha I had many social problems classes in college as well-- and yes, that is where I learned my material ;) Thanks so much for the comment :)

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Josh- Thank you so much!! Means a lot :) Have a great day!!

    • Becky Bruce profile imageAUTHOR

      Becky Bruce 

      6 years ago from San Diego, CA

      Mr. Happy- I feel the same way when I stumble across hubs that address social issues- happy to see others spreading the important message! Thanks so much for the share and the nice comments :)

    • rcrumple profile image


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Becky -

      Social issues remain social issues if no one does anything about them. That is the cause of our current dilemma.

      There's talk of jobs being created. Yet, these jobs are either at or close to minimum wage. In addition, the older the applicant, the less opportunity he/she has with a 25 year old recruiter who doesn't know what life is, little lone a quality prospect.

      It's an election year and one would expect some changes to have occurred. Instead, the millions that could be used to create positions for the unemployed go to fill the wallets of the media collecting advertising dollars.

      We live in a self centered, self absorbed society that concentrates on the "I", instead of the "us" until it affects them. Only then does it become a problem to them. Complacency is the new goal of society. Tis sad, but true.

      Exceptionally well presented. No smile this time. Sorry, but this is a real sore spot... between the torso and the empty skull atop it here. lol

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      6 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

      hmm... yes your hub is very correct. Reminds my of my social problems class I had. lol Nice hub.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 

      6 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Wow, what a well thought out message here Becky! Very thought provoking! Your conclusion was written beautifully!

      "Once understanding is reached, that's when compassion can be found. And out of compassion comes positive social change." Powerful job here Becky!

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Yes, indeed we have many social problems.

      I am happy that we are beginning to talk a little more about such issues and You did a great job here in raising awareness.

      And as You well explained, one person losing their job affects many other people as well, not just the person that lost their job. It is important that we begin to work together, in all possible avenues.

      Thank You for the write. I shall share it.

      All the best!


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