America's Social Problems

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There are many social problems in America’s society, from poverty to crime and discrimination to education. Our society is a system with various components that fit together that will cause a chain reaction; you can not do one thing without it affecting another. Social problems are usually not the result of some malfunctioning part, but are the effects of a system as a whole. Social problems and change is a circle of causes and effects. For example you can not fully reform the education system without changing the dynamic of the family. You cannot reform politics without looking at out economy. The focus here will be urban poverty, homelessness and crime.

The almost complete restructuring of the American economy, from a predominantly manufacture-driven one to a service-driven one, in a very short time, had tremendous adverse consequences on the urban underclass. As this continues it will undoubtedly only exacerbate the joblessness that is at the heart of the continuation of the underclass. The phrase poverty in America conjures up all sorts of images for people; from the homeless guy on the street corner asking for change to communities in the inner city in shabby run down buildings (Brookings Institute, 2006). According to the U.S. Census Bureau the poverty level for a family of four, with two children, is 2012 was $23,283 before taxes. The poverty level being this low is unrealistic. People can not sustain life on that little amount of money, and if they make too much more than that they can not receive and social services to assist them. To paint a larger picture the Census shows that one in eight families are below (this already low) poverty line. Of that 12% of families in poverty 8.4% are white, 22% are black and 21.3% are Hispanic (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). The myth and common belief in our society is that poor people are lazy and bleed the system for their entire lives, when in fact this is a myth. Of course there are a select few who know how to play the system and do not strive to grow but these view are very inaccurate. The 2008 Annual Report to Congress by the Department of Health and Human Services (US Dept. of Health & Human Service, 2008) found that: • Nearly half (49.2%) of poverty spells that began between 2001 and 2003 ended within four months. • More than three-quarters (76.9%) of poverty spells during this period ended within one year. • Only 15.5% of spells lasted more than twenty months.

Concentrated poverty represents the poor populations clustered into very poor communities; many people know them as ghettos. The definition for "low-income areas" first developed by the Bureau of the Census as part of its work for the newly established Office of Economic Opportunity, a new bureaucracy designed to administer most of the War on Poverty Programs created as a part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society legislative agenda. The goal was to identify areas of major concentrations of poverty within large metropolitan areas. Each census track was ranked by an equally weighted measurement of (1) an areas income, (2) level of education, (3) number of single-parent households, (4) percentage of low-skilled workers, and (5) quality of the housing stock (U.S. Census Bureau, 1970).

Julius Wilson wrote a book called “The Truly Disadvantaged” in 1987 which explained the growth of concentrated poverty. He noted trends of dramatic increases in African American “underclass” in America’s inner cities. Wilson argued that the contributing factors to these trends were structural changes in the economy from manufacturing jobs to service economy, the suburbanization of jobs, slow down of economy in the 1970’s, and increased labor market competition from women (Wilson, 1987). But starting in the 1990s concentrated poverty declined, particularly for African Americans. Conditions improved due to the decline of crime rates related to crack, the...
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