Essay Sample on Poverty as a Social Problem

Published: 2021-07-16
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Harvey Mudd College
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Term paper
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Poverty, a major social problem, is maim that has infiltrated every dimension of our societal as well as cultural life. Danziger and Haveman (47) define poverty as a condition where the amount of income available is inadequate to cater for basic needs like food, health care, clothing, and shelter. Poverty is the leading cause of all societal ills taking place in societies today. Poverty leads to illiteracy. The wealthy can afford to take their children to any expensive schools to acquire quality education. But, what happens to the children of the poor who can barely afford a meal a day? Poverty also results in environmental pollution, corruption, crimes, illnesses and increased mortality rates. Thus being the cause of all societal problems, poverty is a social issue. Society is made up of the rich who have lots of money and the poor who cannot afford basic needs. From this angle, the easiest way to end poverty is by distributing money to the poor. However, this cannot happen because money keeps exchanging hands and people ought to provide human capital to sustain their lifestyle of leaving above the poverty line (Jones 77; Tokumei 177). Furthermore, dishing money to the poor would be ignoring the dynamic state of market economies.

In the USA, the rate of poverty was meager during the 1950s- 1970s ("Poverty in America: Overcoming Economic and Social Crises"). These low levels were as a result of a booming economy that had prompted the average income to rise steadily. The increase in the mean income led to a total eradication of absolute poverty within the nation. However, today, 1 out of every 10 Americans is poor with a majority being African- Americans. This rise in poverty stems from the oil crisis which hit the USA in the 1970s ("Poverty in America: Overcoming Economic and Social Crises"). Even though the economy boomed again in the 1990s, the country has not fully recovered, and poverty levels seem to be increasing as each day passes. Likewise, the arrival of immigrants into the nation, especially in the urban areas, increased poverty levels in the Urban centers with 70% being African- Americans,10% Whites and 20% Latinos ("Poverty In America: Overcoming Economic And Social Crises"). Likewise, the single mom trend which is on the rise has equally revolutionized the face of poverty in modern day America.

Poverty can be classified into absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is an extreme case where an individual or rather a household is unable to afford basic needs while relative poverty is a situation where an individual lacks the adequate income to maintain a similar living standard as his/ her counterparts in society ("Poverty | United Nations Educational, Scientific And Cultural Organization"). Several factors can cause poverty within a nation or rather a society. First, lack of education (McCulloch, Winters and Cirera p.57). Education enables a community to produce adequate human capital and enhance innovation which helps to create employment opportunities. However, a lack of education is a social problem because an illiterate society cannot prosper hence resulting in poverty. Second, lack of natural resources. Countries with natural resources can exploit these resources to eradicate poverty. Middle East countries, for example, have utilized their oil reservoirs to generate oil which has helped them tame poverty. Third, political instability. Wars are a leading cause of poverty. A fighting nation often burns down its cities, rapidly lowers its economic growth and prevents its people from participating in economic activities. Other causes of poverty include corruption, poor parenting, unequal distribution of resources, high birth rates and social malpractices (McCulloch, Winters and Cirera p.57). Poverty has subjected humans to extreme suffering forcing them to rely on relief or merely survive. The primary concern of many nations and humanitarian organizations is to ensure the eradication of poverty among societies and give each person an equal access to resources and better living standards.

Again, three theories explain the evolution of poverty into a social problem that it is today. These approaches include functional theory, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism theory. The functional theory, all the aspects of society are interdependent and work together to ensure smooth functioning of the community (Ferrante-Wallace p.28). Change is seen as a gradual and disruptive process. Thus, from this perspective poverty arises due to the failure of the societal components to coordinate (Ferrante-Wallace p.28). According to the conflict theory, inequalities within societys population resulted from earlier economic systems such as feudalism, capitalism as well as socialism. As a result, the rich continue to get richer by manipulating the financial system in their favor while the poor get poorer as a consequence of the actions of the affluent. The middle class therefore arose to mitigate the difference between the rich and the have-nots. Lastly, the symbolic interactionism theory human beings have a tendency of attaching meanings to different symbols and in return acting as per their understanding of the symbols (Ferrante-Wallace p.36). Thus, according to this theory, poverty is a social problem and can only be eradicated using social means.

Governments and humanitarian organizations have taken up the initiative to ensure poverty eradications within nations. The USA government, for example, provides its people with food stamps to enable poor Americans to afford healthy meals. Likewise, the government has equally put in place other social welfare programs such as employment benefits, earned income tax credits as well as social security to enable its people to live above the poverty line (Kasperkevic). Humanitarian organizations other than providing relief, they are educating the people on the various ways they can eliminate poverty through innovation, self-employment, and creation of job opportunities. The government has also invested a lot in education, and many of these non-governmental organizations provide people with scholarships to acquire education.

In some nations like Syria poverty levels have hit the rooftop, however, in the USA poverty rate has declined. According to Domonoske (1), the countrys incidence of poverty reduced to 13.5% in 2015 an improvement from 2014s 14.7%. However, there is still more that the government can do to eradicate poverty further. First, through the absolution of insurance companies as well as each single welfare within the USA to guarantee all the American citizens a Universal Basic Income. Second, I believe the government spends lots of taxpayers money on defense. Thus, the funds spent on defense should be cut down and invested in other sectors such as education that can help eradicate poverty. Lastly, the government should create more jobs for its people and develop vocational training opportunities to promote human capital creation.

In summary, poverty is a major challenge in the 21st century. Living below the poverty line has forced many people to take part in social vices such as robbery, prostitution, and corruption. Furthermore, many people have lost their lives due to an inability to afford healthcare. Thus, it is important that governments and non-governmental organizations unite and work towards guaranteeing each person access to basic needs. Likewise, people should be educated on the various ways they can personally take part in the fight against poverty.

Works Cited

Danziger, Sheldon, and Robert H Haveman. Understanding Poverty. New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 2001.

Domonoske, Camila. "Census Bureau: Poverty Rate Down, Median Incomes up." NPR.Org, 2016,

Ferrante-Wallace, Joan. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed., Belmont, CA, Thomson Wadsworth, 2008.

Jones, Owen. Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. London, Verso, 2016.

Kasperkevic, Jana. "Welfare Programs Shown To Reduce Poverty in America." The Guardian, 2014,

McCulloch, Neil et al. Trade Liberalization and Poverty: A Handbook. London, CEPR, 2006.

"Poverty | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization." Unesco.Org, 2017,

"Poverty in America: Overcoming Economic and Social Crises." Poverties.Org, 2017,

Tokumei, Richard. MONKEYS ON OUR BACKS: Why Conservatives And Liberals Are Both Wrong About Evolution. Lanham, O-Books, 2011.

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