The Plague Of Poverty In America

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Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the number of "poor" persons in the U.S. In 2005, the Bureau found 37 million "poor" Americans. Presidential candidate John Edwards claims that these 37 million Americans currently "struggle with incredible poverty." Edwards asserts that America's poor, who number "one in eight of us…do not have enough money for the food, shelter, and clothing they need," and are forced to live in "terrible" circumstances.However, an examination of the living standards of the 37 million persons, whom the government defines as "poor," reveals that what Edwards calls "the plague" of American poverty might not be as "terrible" or "incredible" as candidate Edwards contends. Poverty is an important and emotional issue. Last…show more content…
There is actually a wide range in living conditions among the poor. For example, over a quarter of poor households have cell phones and telephone answering machines, but, at the other extreme, approximately onetenth have no phone at all. While the majority of poor households do not experience significant material problems, roughly a third do experience at least one problem such as overcrowding, temporary hunger, or difficulty getting medical care. The best news is that remaining poverty can readily be reduced further, particularly among children. There are two main reasons that American children are poor: Their parents don't work much, and fathers are absent from the home. In good economic times or bad, the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year: That amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per year the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty. Father absence is another major cause of child poverty. Nearly twothirds of poor children reside in singleparent homes; each year, an additional 1.3 million children are born out of wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, almost threequarters would immediately be lifted out of…show more content…
For most Americans, the word "poverty" suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. For example, the "Poverty Pulse" poll taken by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development in 2002 asked the general public the question: "How would you describe being poor in the U.S.?" The overwhelming majority of responses focused on homelessness, hunger or not being able to eat properly, and not being able to meet basic needs. 2 But if poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the 35 million people identified as being "in poverty" by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor.3 While material hardship does exist in the United States, it is quite restricted in scope and severity. The average "poor" person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines. Ownership of Property and Amenities Among the Poor Table 1 shows the ownership of property and consumer durables among poor households. The data are taken from the American Housing Survey for 2001, conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Census Bureau, and the Residential Energy Consumption Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of

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