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Discussion of Poverty and Economic Security

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Poverty is the lack of the basic needs of life, including food, shelter, clothing, and safe drinking water. Poverty is a concerning issue that many individuals are unaware of. It is widespread and more common than we think. It affects many people throughout the world and needs intervention. The U.S. Census estimates that 13.4 percent of Americans, about 42 million, lived below the poverty line in 2017. This percentage has increased throughout the years. I want to ensure that those who aren’t financially stable, have an opportunity to earn little income to support themselves. I propose that there should be actions taken by the Congress to cut poverty and boost the economic security.

When it comes to poverty, people with little to no incomes are the ones impacted. USA Today states, “Both personal responsibility and structural pressures can lead to poverty, and experts often argue which affects poverty more. But some factors outside of the control of the individual — including being a woman, black, Hispanic, a child, or a disabled person — are an indicator that one is more likely to live in poverty” (Sauter). These groups are more likely to grow up in unhealthy homes, poor neighborhoods, or insufficient school systems.

The poverty rate for women is 14.5 percent. Women face challenges in the working industry such as being paid far less than men which puts them at a greater risk of poverty and financial hardship. According to USA Today, “Women earned 81.3 percent of men’s median earnings in the second quarter of 2018” (Sauter). This pay gap between men and women still carry on even when qualifications and duties are equal. Women are more likely to work in low-paying jobs due to caregiving, which they are unpaid for. On the other hand, single mothers are thrown into poverty due to the cost of bearing a child. Low-income women have a higher chance of unwanted pregnancies which will possibly put them in poverty as they are unable to provide for themselves or their child.

Children can’t earn income on their own, so they are reliant on the elderly to keep them out of poverty. USA Today states, “Compared to working-age adults or senior citizens, children are significantly more likely to live in poverty — 18.4 percent of Americans under age 18 live in poverty, compared to 12.6 percent of 18 to 64-year old’s and 9.3 percent of senior citizens” (Sauter). These statistics are rising due to parents not being able to provide for their children and setting them free to earn little income on their own.

Disabled people are likely to face poverty as well. This causality can go both ways. As USA Today states, “Those who have a disability have a higher risk of becoming poor, and those who are poor have a higher risk of becoming disabled” (Sauter). Those with disabilities are unable to work, leaving them on the streets with no income. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed to provide financial security to those with a condition or illness. Despite the act, the discrimination of hiring those with disabilities continues. Generally, they have a harder time finding a job and earning “above-poverty wages”.

Race impacts whether you live in poverty or not. 19.4 percent of Hispanics and Latino Americans live in poverty. The high poverty rate for Hispanics and Latinos are the low education and earnings. USA Today states that, “Just 16.0 percent of Hispanic and Latino adults have a bachelor’s degree, half of the nationwide college attainment rate of 32.0 percent — for all races” (Sauter). These individuals with degrees hold high-paying jobs. Discrimination is one of the situations that Hispanics and Latinos go through while looking for jobs. A poll conducted by National Public Radio stated that, “one in three Hispanics and Latinos living in America report being discriminated against when applying for jobs” (Neel).

Similarly, Black and African Americans face the same discrimination. Those living in the United States face obstacles from earning a steady income to escaping poverty. These obstacles are difficult to surpass when the majority of the black American population grow up in malnourished neighborhoods. “According to a report by the Brookings Institution, black Americans encounter inequalities in education, discrimination in the workplace, ineffective parenting, high incarceration rates, and more” (Winship). Data shows that Black Americans are more than twice as likely as whites or Asian Americans to live in poverty.

These conflicts can be improved if different groups of people engaged in different activities. Most importantly, creating more jobs can reduce the poverty rate. At this point in time, we would need to create 5.6 million new jobs to make an impact on poverty. Although this is inevitably not possible, there should be a start to this idea. Raising minimum wage would lift 4 million people out of poverty. The current minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. This number needs to be increased to give people a chance of life without poverty. Supporting pay equity can help cut poverty in half for working women and families. The pay gap between men and women puts women into poverty because men earn far more than women in median-paying jobs. Something that has helped children is increasing the earned income tax credit for children workers. This idea has helped more than 6.5 million Americans. Providing paid lead and paid sick days can help women who find it hard to balance work and kids. Individuals receive less income due to sick days and medical leaves. Expanding Medicaid can free up limited household income for basic needs. This would give families a little more money to spend on needs other than medical needs. Lastly, investing in an affordable, high quality childcare can aid struggling families with childcare. Childcare is majorly the reason of why women are unable to work and earn money. Investing in this would put the women to work and help with their children’s expenses.

In conclusion, I propose that people should have equal opportunity to earn money despite race, gender, or age. These conflicts can be solved if people put forth their best effort to decrease poverty. 

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