Causes of Poverty in the United States

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The United States defines poverty for a family of four as being less than $16,036 per year, or $4,009 per person (Leone 12). People find themselves under this line for an innumerable amount of reasons. Some of these causes are under one's control and others are greater factors beyond an individual's power. Each family or individual person has unique and separate reasons for living in a state poverty. There is no way to try and define them all. Focusing in, three main topics arise that encompass the most predominant reasons for a person to fall into poverty. Education, family life and influence, along with the business cycle may work individually or together to cause poverty. These three leading causes are presented and discussed along with facts prevalent to the issue in the section below.

Education, or inadequate education or lack of an education, causes poverty. From the early years of preschool, into the years of K-12, without a college education and on into the work force people in poverty may never stop suffering from it if they do not become educated.The United States generally looks at education as a path to success but the people with the longest road towards success are not getting enough education. In the years before kindergarten, children form their basic thinking skills and children who don't learn these at home fall behind everyone else. In most cases children in poverty do not achieve these skills to the extent of middle-class children from their environment at home. When poor children enter school they are generally a year and a half behind the language abilities of their middle-class peers. Already children of poverty are behind in their education. When parents cannot pay for their children to attend preschool they are depriving their children of a sufficient education.

Not only are impoverished children suffering from a late start in education, it is known that the neediest schools are the schools who's students are below the poverty line. The students with the greatest needs receive the least funding and resources. In New York the average poor student will receive about $1,000 year in resources at public school; whereas the school's with the least amount of poor children receive around $3,000 per student in public schools. Not necessarily the same number wise but this is the case in at least 37 of our 50 states (Schemo). Inadequate education for impoverished children only worsens their chances of making it out of poverty.

It is assumed that if you are poor then you will not receive a form of higher education. It is even more realistic that when this is the case lack of education impairs your chances of gaining ground beyond that of poverty. About 34% of unemployed people never got a high school diploma compared to the 6% of unemployed people who have attained a bachelor's degree (U.S. Census Bureau). These unemployed individuals never got the education needed to hold a middle-class worthy job so they live in poverty. This chart below demonstrates how education increases chances of employment, allowing an income that may keep you above poverty level.

As if these factors aren't enough, the government passed a Bill in May 2002 that eliminates vocational education as an activity counted as work for people receiving welfare (House Welfare Bill Passes…). Now a much needed education for the poor will not be achieved in most cases and the road to success will be further dampened. Welfare recipients must be in work "activities" for 30-40 hours a week. This has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that people without proper education can get paying jobs 40 hours a week. But a down side is that education may not be received for these people on welfare who will get these "make-work" jobs that do not allow them to rise out of poverty. The bill does allow these workers with 16 hours of on the job training. This is not adequate for people to rise above the poverty line. The government supporting lack...
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