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Growing Up in Poverty Determines The Person's Fate

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How could you expect everyone to achieve the same goal without everyone having the same necessities needed to accomplish it? It would be the equivalent of expecting a fish to climb a tree the same way a squirrel is able to. Many people set high, unrealistic expectations for the highly sought after American dream and apply these expectations to everyone; however, everyone is not living in the same exact circumstances. The charm of anticipated success is an illusion that has denied the reality of American life for many Americans because someone’s situation as a child has a direct impact on their future opportunities.

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Inequality among incomes is one of the most deep-rooted flaws in the idea of the American dream. Research performed by the NCCP, National Center for Children in Poverty, showed that the top percent of Americans’ income increased by $180,000, middle income increased by $400, and lower-income increased by $200. Coming from the lower-income family and only making $200 more, it would be extremely difficult to match up with the middle-income families, and it would be nearly impossible to compete with the top percent making $180,000 more. This conveys that Americans in a lower-income situation would have to overcome great financial differences before even considering reaching a higher income group.

Economic mobility is the ability of someone or a family to move up from one income group to another. In the United States, it is at an all-time low and is currently decreasing. Due to this setback, families are often times slipping into downward mobility meaning they are dropping to a lower income group. The lack of mobility alone shows how unequal the idea of achieving the American dream really is. A family in poverty is highly unlikely to get out of poverty causing the cycle of poverty to continue to their children, which can obstruct their child’s ability to succeed later in life in many different ways.

According to the NCCP, there are around fifteen million children living in poverty. Currently, in the U.S. one in every five children live in poverty. Research has shown that families struggling with poverty would need almost double the federal poverty threshold to be able to supply for their basic needs meaning that their children would not have access to certain necessities. A child born into a family living below the federal poverty threshold has the possibility of struggling later in life especially with learning abilities and their overall education career, which only continues the poverty cycle deriving from the parents to their child.

It is commonly said that education is the key to success. With over 82% of poverty bound children whose parents do not even have a high school degree, these children are very unlikely to receive a well-rounded education. They are raised by their parents in a fashion where schooling is not the priority. When the parents do not care about education neither will the child, which is not the child’s fault but they are the ones that end up being negatively impacted by this mindset. Private schools are out of the question for these children, forcing them into the public education system. Though the government views public education as an equal opportunity for a child’s education, there are drastic academic differences among these types of schools. This means that because of their family’s economic situation they are less likely to receive the same education as someone coming from a high economic status.

53% of low-income families with children are being raised by a single parent trying to balance maintaining a job while raising their children. Therefore, many poverty bound children will quit school in order to work so they can help financially support their families. 30% of children raised in poverty do not earn a high school degree. In today’s society, almost every job requires you to have at least finished high school. So even though they are currently supporting their family as a teenager, they will not have the skills needed to provide for their own family later in their life.

Receiving proper education has the possibility to take these children farther than they could ever imagine. When a child becomes educated, they gain self-confidence and believe they can do the impossible. Education should be the way out of poverty for these children. However, they either quit school or do not receive the same education opportunities as someone in a higher economic class would receive. Without proper education, they will never have the abilities necessary to succeed financially, socially, etc., which will hinder their overall opportunities later in life.

The overall purpose of education is to prepare you for everything later in your life. Education is the foundation for success. The experiences and knowledge that you gain throughout your educational career cannot be found in anywhere else. Besides the mental growth that education provides, it is capable of determining your future success in your career. With further education such as attending a college or university, you are studying what you plan on pursuing a career in and setting a pathway to achieve that success later on. However, with over 17 million children whose parents do not have a college education and some not even finishing high school, these children are not being taught that you have to be educated in order to succeed.

Even though someone’s childhood opportunities determines their future success, many believe that working hard and having determination is the key to achieving the American dream. The American people are very naive in believing that everyone can go from having nothing to everything. Oprah Winfrey is a prime example of a rags to riches story. She was an orphan and dealt with many hardships such as rape, poverty, abuse, etc. However, Winfrey did not let her childhood disasters hold her back to becoming one of the richest people in the world. She used her past as motivation and went on to succeed marvelous things that a poverty-bound child, like herself, would have never thought to be realistic. Americans view stories such as these to be motivating and make them believe that they can achieve the same things if they are determined and work hard.

On the other hand, there is a growing number of jobs being taken over by machines. No amount of hard work from a human could ever compare to that of a computer-programmed robot. Though, someone’s knowledge and experience gained through schooling overrule a machine every day. Workers have to be knowledgable enough to be able to adapt to the fast-paced, technology-based world we live in today. Without any prior education, the machines take away humans’ opportunities to succeed in the workplace. Overall, someone’s education and experience have a far greater long-term impact than having determination and working hard.

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In conclusion, the life that someone is born into and raised in has a direct influence on their opportunities to succeed later in life. Expecting everyone to achieve the same American dream is an unattainable idea because everyone does not have the same opportunities as a child. Therefore, the playing field is not equal because no one is raised in the exact same circumstances. The sad reality of America today is that someone being born into a wealthier family is already ahead of someone being born into poverty before they even take their first breath.

Works Cited

  • P., Rosemarie. “Is the American Dream Still Achievable?” National Writing Project, American Creed, 9 May 2018,
  • “Child Poverty.” NCCP, Columbia University,
  • “Demographics.” NCCP, 19 Nov. 2018,
  • “How Education Has the Power to Impact Your Future Success.” DCC, Damelin Correspondence College, 17 July 2017,
  • “The Effects of Poverty on Education in the United States.” ChildFund International , ChildFund, 4 Nov. 2013,
  • “Where’s MY American Dream? Hard Work, Determination Aren’t Necessarily Enough Any More.” NCCP, Columbia University, 23 May 2008,

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