Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poverty in America

There has been a lot of talk recently about the rise of the sharing economy, with attention focused on young people making low wages (no dispute here) and other factors that people pick out. Our national poverty rate is currently around 14.5%, which is down from where it was in 2013, when it was 15%.

None of this article is to claim that poverty is not a real issue, it is. The issue however regards accurately representing the issue and not distorting it into something it is not to a point where it is distorted from reality and people no longer understand the real issue at play. This is very dangerous for social justice work because than we won't understand where the real issues are that we need to target, and we will inefficiently spend our time and money compared to the potential good we could achieve. In order to solve a problem completely and quickly you must understand it as fully as possible. To explain where the poverty is and its roots is the purpose of this blog post.

Historically speaking, America's poverty rate has bounced between 11 and 15% since 1965. Despite all of the talk, we have not seen a massive increase of poverty relative to our population. This is important to remember when p

Compared to other countries around the world, we are on par with Germany and the United Kingdom.

One of the biggest factors of poverty in America is how concentrated poverty is among people of color. Over 27% of African Americans and over 25% of Hispanics live in poverty, which is on par with Iraq and Costa Rice (albeit below Italy). White Americans on the other hand are only around 9%, similar to Canada.

If we want to eliminate poverty in America, it will require a heavy focus on helping people of color.

Issues that create this combination include discrimination in schools, which includes higher discipline rates for children of color versus their white peers in terms of things like suspension starting in preschool, meaning they miss school more and don't get a high quality education. (Civil We need to implement programs to reduce the over-punishment against students of color and provide funds for schools to provide a more equal opportunity to all students which simply does not exist today. This will help it so more students of color can graduate and get into college. There is a massive difference between the unemployment rates of adults of color based on their education level. NY Times The solution to the lack of resources would actually be very easy economically by the federal government providing them so we stop tying school funding to local poverty. Fighting over discipline is a more complicated issue and at this point in time I'm not sure what strategy would be effective. There are some plans on the books to enforce teacher pay equity (controlling for other factors of course) but neither Bush nor Obama have pushed hard to enforce these laws.

Other issues regard access to employment, such as where to get a job you need to have good credit (which is almost impossible to get if you have no income and you don't already have a good rating), and particularly discrimination by police forces, border control, and other law enforcement agencies which perpetuates inequality across America. The entire report by The Leadership Conference is worth reading here.

A final warning about studying poverty was well written by an author on Slate warning that how we measure who is in poverty can give wildly different results. If we don't include assistance, the poverty line is shockingly high. If we include assistance from the government and other groups, which are technically a form of income, the number of people living under the international poverty line falls almost to 0. This is a good warning when it comes to reading numbers and the many ways these numbers can be made to be larger or smaller, and why authors like me need to be clear about how we calculate such information. Using the same methods international researchers use to measure poverty in third-world countries falls to 0. Absolute poverty does not exist in America like in many parts of Africa in particular. Relative poverty however remains a major issue.

What sorts of proposals are on the table for reducing poverty?

  1. Ensure a fair criminal justice system which will help reduce the amount of time that people are out of work and increase employment opportunities.
  2. As I go on about at length above, we need to end discrimination in education and make it so that the quality of a child's education is independent of their area's property values (which are tied to income and overall economic well being)
  3. We can provide a universal minimum income to raise all families to a certain level.
There are of course many other ideas, but these three are the ones that immediately come to mind for me and should make a significant dent in our poverty rate.

References: poverty over time snapshot of who is in poverty as of 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment