A 21st Century Journalism Project

Too Poor to Account for

In Defining The Problem on April 3, 2012 at 10:31 pm

By: Darren Campbell

Poverty can and is happening for many reasons. There are those who accuse people in poverty of messing up their lives somehow or not working hard enough to keep themselves out of poverty.

Poverty is often the result of a combination of circumstances. It can be generational, where children and grandchildren are born into it and lack the skills, resources, and education to get out of it. Other people drop from middle or upper class to poverty because of health problems, medical bills, layoffs, or poor money management.

A survey by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that only about one in 10 Americans names poverty, welfare, or something similar as one of the two top issues government should address. The survey shows eleven different reasons for the cause in poverty in America. Drug abuse, medical bills, low-wage jobs, part-time jobs, single-parent families, immigrants, welfare system, motivation, and public schooling are the cause of poverty according to the survey.

Frances Campbell is a mother of 4 children and she departed from the father of her first child, because of his addiction to drugs. “I don’t blame him for his addiction, because that’s all he grew up around. One thing I won’t allow is drug use around my children, because that’s the only way to stop the generational curse sort of speak. We as a black community need to work on keeping the drugs out of our children’s hands.”

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report, an estimated 39.8 million people live in poverty in this country. 3.7 million of them are in need of treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, but less than a quarter of those in need of treatment actually get it. Reasons for this include: lack of knowledge of treatment options, lack of health insurance, and lack of support system.

According to a survey by the (NSDUH) report, those without health insurance coverage were more likely than those with health insurance to need substance treatment. Of the persons living in poverty who were in need of substance use treatment in the past year, an estimated 663,000 persons received treatment at a facility during this time period. Nearly 30.8 percent of persons aged 35 to 49 living in poverty and in need of treatment received it compared with one quarter of their counterparts aged 26 to 34 and less than one tenth of young adults aged 18 to 25 and adolescents aged 12 to 17.

In the Census Bureau report for 2011, there are 49.9 million Americans that don’t have health insurance. There are only 56 percent of Americans that are currently covered by employer-provided health insurance. A report published in The American Journal of Medicine shows that medical bills are a major factor in at least 60 percent or more of the personal bankruptcies in America. About 75 percent of the bankruptcies caused by medical bills, involved individuals that actually did have health insurance. Based off reports from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care accounted for 9.5 percent of all personal consumption back in 1980. In today’s society health care cost account for approximately 16.3 percent of all personal consumption.

According to Osterman’s Analysis, about 20 percent of American adults who have jobs are earning only $10.65 an hour or less. Adults would still make less than $22,314 working 40 hours a week, which is the poverty level for a family of four. The Federal minimum wage in America is currently at $7.25 an hour. 18 different States in the U.S have their own rates above the federal level, maxing out at $8.67 an hour in the State of Washington. The increases in minimum wage have not kept up with inflation over the past years.

According to the Kids Count Date Center, United States is in the category of 36% of single parent families with related children that are below poverty in 2010. Since the time when President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on poverty with the goal of removing poverty in America, the country has spent over $11 trillion on anti-poverty programs. America spent trillions of dollars on anti-poverty programs, providing cash, housing, food, medical care, and services to the poor and near poor. Meanwhile, the government continues its efforts to reduce poverty in the America, but immigration is still a factor. The immigration policy in the U.S is increasing rather than decrease poverty. Immigrants with low skill levels have a high probability of both poverty and receipt of welfare benefits and services.

In a chart  from Wikipedia, Studies shown on poverty levels pre and post welfare aren’t in favor of the United States. The chart shows that poverty has been significantly reduced during the periods where major welfare programs were created in other countries like France, but has an opposite result in the U.S.

Children at the age of 18 and under represent about 28 percent of Americas population and comprise of 40 percent of the poverty population. That statistic ranks number one in all industrialized nations. 20 percent of Americans live in poverty, which hasn’t changed for the past 40 years. Of these 20 percent, 60 percent are from the working class poor.

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