Poverty and its Effect on Society
SOC 100 – Introduction to Sociology
Professor Lisa Riggleman-Gross
January 29, 2012
The United States has one of the strongest economies in the world. Even in light of recent events such as the economic collapse and recession, the U.S. reported a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $47,200 per capita in 2010 (estimated). The U.S. has maintained its status as the largest and most technological country due to its market based economy (CIA-The World Fact Book). However, while the U.S. has reported such high numbers in GDP, we rank third in poverty with a 17% poverty rate. This ranking is among the top thirty of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in the world. Only Mexico and Turkey rank higher than our country (Ranking America, Blog at WordPress.com).
Poverty and Its Effects on Society
The disease of poverty in the U.S. is not new, but it is one that has remained a constant, even as our nation grew into a world superpower. While attitudes have slowly shifted in regards to those who are considered living at and below the poverty level, the nation has yet to fully attempt to attack the problem in way that would seriously find a cure.
In 2011, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that one in five children, 14.7 million or 20 percent, lived below the poverty level. This number is up from 17% in 2000 (Report: Child poverty Rate Hits 20 percent in U.S. as families struggle; Christian Science Monitor). The total number of people living below the poverty level is at its highest, 46.2 million as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is the highest number since the Bureau began publishing its records in 1959(Total U.S. Population living below the poverty line; U.S. Census Bureau). And although some groups are affected by poverty more than others, no one, regardless of race or age, is immune to the disease. The total number of people living below the poverty line affects the U.S. GDP, crime, and has caused a major gap in the have and have-nots in the nation. The current recession has had an extreme impact on people living in poverty and the recent occupy movement, regardless of any ones opinion of it, has brought to light the growing dissatisfaction that many in the nation feel toward corporations and the minority who seem to be only getting richer while more people across the nation slip below the poverty line. In 2007, the government classified 37 million men, women, and children-12.5 percent of the population –as poor (Macionis, 2010, p. 288). Every day, we pass people living on the street, children go to school wearing the same clothes and receive the only meal they will eat that day, and millions people go to sleep without food or adequate shelter. Poverty can affect ones educational status, and numerous reports cite how poverty and poor health are intertwined. The number of people living in poverty is also, in some opinions an issue of national security.
Attitudes toward the poor have changed in this nation over the years. In 19th and early 20th century America, the poor were sometimes sent to poor houses or farms where they worked in exchange for food and shelter. Major cities primary means of dealing with orphaned children were to put them into “Pauper apprenticeships” where they worked for an individual who, in exchange, provided them with the basic necessities of life. Many of these children were often abused and used more as slave labor. During the great depression, when most of the nation was reeling from the effects of the stock market crash, the lines between classes blurred, and many who had once been working or middle class, or very affluent, found themselves in the soup lines right next to those they may have once ignored. Sadly, many of us today have that same attitude toward the poor and homeless. During the holidays we...