Poverty is defined as “the state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.(” More children live in poverty in the United States than in any other developed country (p. 192, Parrillo). Generally, poverty is blamed either on the individual or the system. Several dimensions such as intelligence, poverty culture, family life and the system of capitalism give explanation as to why poverty exists in the U.S.
Intelligence has been labeled as one of the factors of poverty in the U.S. because of research done by sociologist, Richard Herrnstein, who “argued that the poor have a lower intellectual capability than the non-poor, and that they marry other people of low intelligence, thus producing children of low intellectual capacity (p. 195, Parrillo).” Although, there is plenty of evidence refuting this finding many people tend to think of the poor as lacking the knowledge to attain and obtain a well paying job. For this reason, people of poor economic background receive fewer opportunities in the work force.
Poverty culture gives explanation for the existence of poverty through “the continual reinforcement of the cycle of poverty (p. 195, Parrillo)” adapted by children of poor families. Poverty culture consists of unproductive actions such as a lack of education, teenage pregnancy, drug use, a lack of trust in the authorities and a pessimistic attitude. It has been argued that the “negative orientation toward life and work makes them ill-equipped to enter the societal mainstream (p. 195, Parrillo).”
Family life, like intelligence and poverty culture, places blame of poverty on the individual. It has been consistently found that family instability is most common among the poor than in any other economic class. Because there is a lack of support in poor families, individuals raised in these families are prone to failure.
Finally, the system of capitalism is one of the few dimensions that places the blame on society for the existence of poverty. “Socialist, Michael Harrington argued the inadequate programs and misdirected priorities hampered efforts to solve this far from intractable problem (p. 217, Parrillo).” Because the poor have no positive influence in society and lack political support, they have no means of power to break the ongoing cycle of poverty.
The United States tried to rectify the poverty problem in several ways. Through social programs such as welfare and social security, the poor are given a minimal amount of money in order to aid their existence. The “Trickle Down” approach was installed by the Reagan-Bush Republican administrators with the belief that in giving the upper-class a tax cut, the rich would have more money to pump into the economy which would eventually reach the lower classes. The Interventionist Approach was an action taken on behalf of the federal government, which sought to educate and employ the poor in order to help them attain a job career. Unfortunately, these social programs have not been able to keep up with the inflation rates and the constant want of material goods by the poor created by the need to fit in with the middle and upper classes.
In reaction to the deregulation of the international market, many other countries are simulating the American capitalistic system. By “reducing social benefits towards the poor and unemployed and minimizing government efforts to assure job security (p. 47, Heiner)”, poverty is being given the opportunity to manifest globally. Without an international plan that places emphasis on building “successful families, competent schools and positive communities in which good jobs exist to meet the needs of families worldwide (p. 45, Heiner)”, the problem of poverty will continue to grow.
Due to the individual and societal influence that is placed on poverty, the amount of poor people in the world has grown consistently. A unified plan is mandatory, otherwise, poverty will continue to grow and create a serious threat to our general welfare. In realizing that the upper classes of the world has the power to put an end to poverty almost immediately through a combination of educational jump start programs and a guaranteed annual income, a system ought to be devised to end poverty once and for all.
Contemporary Social Problems, 4th Edition; Vincent N. Parrillo: pp. 193-219
Social Problems and Social Solutions; Robert Heiner: pp. 29-75
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition Copyright 1996, 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company