Poverty and Children in the U S Poverty Essay

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Poverty and Children in the U.S.

Poverty Stricken Children in the United States of America

It is unfortunate to state that sociological ills have preserved their place in almost every society, civilization and empire. Be it slavery, illiteracy, disease or poverty; one vice or the other has invaded communities throughout history and wreaked destruction upon the inhabitants. Despite the revolutions in the information technology and communication sector, countries are still experiencing a strong dearth of resources. Regardless of the progress within the global corporate realm, there is a widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Poverty is a harsh and tangible part of our world reality. What is poverty? A simple and straightforward explanation is to be without basic, essential items such as food, water, and shelter. The Copenhagen Declaration paints it as "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation, facilities, health, education and information." (Finding Solutions to Poverty, 2006)

The World Bank, a prestigious institution, states that "the most commonly used way to measure poverty is based on incomes. A person is considered poor if his or her income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs. This minimum level is usually called the "poverty line." What is necessary to satisfy basic needs varies across time and societies. Therefore, poverty lines vary in time and place, and each country uses lines which are appropriate to its level of development, societal norms and values." (Definitions of Poverty, 2012) In the very same article, one narrow definition is that the "minimum level" is half the national average salary, which in this case would be £7000 for Scotland. The body responsible for fighting poverty in this country is the Scottish Poverty Information Unit. They go onto describe it as "relative to the standards of living in a society at a specific time. People live in poverty when they are denied an income sufficient for their material needs and when these circumstances exclude them from taking part in activities which are an accepted part of daily life in that society."

As this paper is exploring poverty trends in the United States of America, it is essential to comprehend the attitude of definition there. It is defined in absolute or relative terms here. The latter refers to the "determination of poverty by some distance from a measure of middle class-for instance median income." (Defining Poverty, 2011). The magnitude of youth dwelling in poverty stricken circumstances has risen substantially over the years. From the census conducted in 2007 by the government, it was discovered that eleven million and six hundred thousand souls lived in poor conditions in the year of 2000. However, this number had gone up substantially to thirteen million and three hundred thousand children by 2007 when the latest census was conducted. The percentage of children that were part of families existing below the poverty line had increased from 16.2% in 2000 to 18% in 2007. This implied that nearly one in five children was poor. (Kristin Anderson Moore, 2009). The Census Bureau published an updated report in November 2011. Within its contents, updated statistical figures were available. It indicated that the rate of poverty for children in the age bracket from infancy to seventeen, there was an increase of 1.6%. Prior to this timeline, it had been twenty percent in the year 2000 and nine years later, it was 21.6%. (Child Poverty in the United States 2009 and 2010, 2011)

These figures are quite astonishing as according to Samana Siddique, almost one hundred billion pounds of food is wasted on an annual basis. This fact is further strengthened by a study conducted by the University of Arizona in Tucson that learnt that fourteen percent of the average American household wasted its food purchases. Within this figure, fifteen percent included products that had not expired and were still usable. The household wastage was quantified as forty three billion dollars by Timothy Jones, the leading anthropologist who performed the study mentioned above. (Siddiqi, 2011) This entails severe economic costs for the entire American community as these are products that have been wasted and foregone. The rigorousness of the opportunity costs being incurred is harsh as well.

This is surprising as Jerry Large wrote that "a couple of generations ago, old people were the poorest Americans. Today children are much more likely to be poor." One would think that the elders would be more practical about food wastage. In his article, he discusses arguments raised by Robert Plotnick, a professor in the Evans School of Public Affairs, at the University of Washington. Plotnick announced that poverty rates have remained about the same since the middle of the 1960s when President Lydon announced his convictions to fight the state of poverty. He stressed that there are some factors that are out of the control of humanity, such as natural disasters of hurricanes, earthquakes and floods. Another important fact to comprehend is that every country is different with its own diverse culture and societal norms. Therefore, it is not necessary to emulate measures to reduce poverty that have been taken in other nations as they may not suit the mindset and attitude of the American people. Also, a rich nation can have high poverty rates. For instance, European countries do have lower poverty rates than the United States of America. It is definite that social variables contribute to the rises in the poverty rates. Large pointed to more single parent families, higher rate of immigrant workers and decline in wages for unskilled laborers. (Large, 2011)

Another professor laments on the increment in the national poverty rate. Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. With forty six million American citizens surviving on poverty, he states that political agendas influence and shape the future of such people where governmental welfare programs are concerned. As the "poor do not vote in high rates or contribute much in campaign funds, they do not get a place at the table in Washington D.C." However, given that its 15.1% rate in 2011 is the highest in the developed world, has made the success of the United States of America questionable holistically. This includes the highest composition of poorest children in the developed world. Zelizer explores that Republicans tend to evade when asked about their viewpoints on poverty. The rationale for this is that they don't believe that the government can provide a permanent, long-term solution to this social dilemma. Democrats and Republicans believe that expanding the economy will reduce the overall existing levels of poverty. (Zelizer, 2011)

Data released by the Census Bureau in September 2011 indicated that now, a staggering sixteen million and four hundred children resided in poverty stricken circumstances. More than twenty two percent of the entire American child population dwelled in poverty in the year 2010. Six million of these children were under the tender age of only six years. And about half of the entire figure of 16.4 million, i.e. seven million and four hundred thousand children lived in severe conditions of extreme poverty. The phrase "extreme poverty" can be depicted as those families owning an annual income of less than eleven thousand, one hundred and fifty seven American dollars for a family of four. (How many children are poor, 2011)

As the American government has published data and statistics regarding child poverty, it is possible to gain information on the subject at a state level. Research has illustrated that spending the mass of one's childhood in poor, poverty stricken situations has an adverse effect on the medical, economic, educational and social welfare of the child. Those who live in extreme poverty, as defined above, are in even worse conditions and are more likely to indulge in activities that will require the strict legal enforcement by the criminal justice system rather than to graduate from high school, soar in college and hold a steady, middle level income job. These individual problems have translated into serious financial burdens for the American society as a whole. The opportunity cost that was mentioned above may be quantified as five hundred billion dollars.

The American Community Survey took national cost estimates of child poverty and applied it to the estimated number of poverty stricken children living in variant states. In fourteen states, the annual cost was roughly more than ten billion dollars. The most populous states had the highest costs which isn't surprising given that the variable of the number of children was great. Following are some figures on the highest costs incurred state wise:


Amount ($)



63.9 billion



57.5 billion


New York

33.4 billion



500 million


It is interesting to note that even Wyoming, the smallest state in terms of the number of living persons in it had to bear a high cost of five hundred million dollars. The largest cost in terms of monetary value was in California as it did have…

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