The US is known across the globe as the country of opportunity, where people live in comfort. In the US, most individuals do, but there is also a sizeable group that often lacks.
Nearly 40 million Americans were estimated to be living in poverty in 2017 by the US Census Bureau. The official poverty rate for that year was reported to be 12.3 percent.
Are these outcomes reliable? No, and yes. In truth, more Americans are living in poverty than this.
This is so because homeless individuals, military members who do not live with at least one adult civilian, and those who are jailed are not included in the official poverty measure, which was created in the 1960s as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.
According to estimates from the White House, there are more than 500,000 homeless persons in the US. Additionally, there are around 1.3 million members of the US military and 1.5 million persons who are jailed in the nation.
Unknown, but likely a significant percentage of military people live alone. Given these details, it is reasonable to assume that at least 40.5 million Americans, and probably more, lived in poverty in 2017.
When thinking about poverty, it’s critical to understand how it’s assessed, who is impoverished, and how the nation addresses the issue.
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While poverty is an abstract term that might be difficult to describe for those trying to measure it, it is a tangible reality for people who live in it.
According to the US government, anyone residing in a family with an income below the US poverty line is officially deemed to be living in poverty. A single individual in the US earning $12,490 or less was deemed to be living in poverty in 2019.
The poverty threshold was $16,910 for a couple, $21,330 for a trio, and $25,750 for a family of four. It costs $43,430 for an eight-person household. The poverty levels varied a little in Alaska and Hawaii.
The official poverty measure establishes criteria based on family size and the ages of individuals living in the home and considers how much food a family may need.
However, the typical rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the US was $1234.43 in 2016, making it quite impossible for a single individual to live on that amount. In this spending plan, there would not be any money left over for either rent or food.
Government safety net programs like Medicaid and WIC, which provide federal payments for extra food, health care, and other essentials, are available to anyone who meet the poverty requirements in the US.
Surprisingly, the Census Bureau stated that 18.5 million persons in the US (or 5.7% of all Americans) reported living in deep poverty, defined as having a family income that is less than 50% of the federal poverty line. Of all persons formally classified as living in poverty, these individuals made up 46.7%.
Who Is a Poverty Resident?
Almost everyone who experiences unfortunate circumstances may become poor. But certain groups are more susceptible to its hold. In the US, 31% of single women and those living with a single mother and no father are considered poor.
Thirty-three percent of those who reside in households where the head of the household is jobless are poor. Young people who did not complete high school make up around 31% of the homeless population (43%), while minorities make up 27.6% of the poverty rate.
Additionally, impoverished individuals are more likely to reside in certain US regions than others. Most of the poorest states are located in the South and Southwest.
Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia are some of these. Mississippi has the most significant percentage of residents living in poverty, with approximately 21% of its residents.
How Do People Become Poor?
There are several ways to become poor. Many individuals are born poor, meaning their family was poor when they were born. Others become poor after losing their jobs or accruing enormous medical expenses that push them into bankruptcy.
People might become poor due to significant life events like marriage, divorce, or sudden death in the family.
Less education may affect your financial destiny, as is generally known. In the US in 2018, college graduates made 80 percent more money per week than people who had completed high school. The state of one’s health may also influence how wealthy or poor they are.
Chronic illnesses and documented mental health issues are more common among the poor. This may be a consequence of the constant stress that comes with being poor and the conditions that impoverished people are compelled to live in.
For instance, poor kids are twice as likely to have harmful amounts of lead in their blood than other kids. People are impoverished for a variety of reasons.
How the nation is addressing poverty
The marginally positive news in all of this is that, as of the most recent survey, poverty rates in the US were not skyrocketing.
Even though many individuals were living in poverty, there was no statistically significant change in the rates of those who were poor between 2017 and 2018. However, the coronavirus pandemic might reverse this pattern.
Government programs that assist the poor include Medicaid, Head Start, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance, family planning services, food stamps, and the national school breakfast and lunch programs, to mention a few. Unfortunately, there are situations when this is insufficient.
Out of all the industrialized nations, the US has the most significant percentage of poverty. More could probably be done to guarantee that everyone has access to additional possibilities in the country of opportunity.