Poverty in America

A homeless man begs for money in the Financial District in San Francisco, California March 28, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The goal of this article is to examine what being poor in America means and what we can do about the poverty situation in America.

What is Poverty in the United States?

In America, poverty is based on an income threshold and family size. For example, the federal guideline of poverty for a family of one person is that if they make $13,590 per year or under, they are considered to live in poverty. Listed below will be more family numbers and income levels for being considered living in poverty. The United States Census Bureau uses two ways to measure poverty, the Official Measure, and the Supplemental Measure. Using these two measures together allows more information about poverty to be communicated.

Official Measure

This measure acts under the assumption that people who live together (that are related) share income with one another.

This measure is the same in the United States, it doesn’t change based on geography

Measures based off of just income, what’s coming in

Supplemental Measure

This measure adds those people who you live with that you aren’t technically related to into account. Like unmarried partners or foster children.

Takes geography into account

Measures are based on what comes in and what goes out. Income and expenses like healthcare, communicating costs, and child care.

Persons in FamilyIncome Amount per year

Who is Living in Poverty?

According to the Census Bureau, 12.8% of Americans were living in poverty in 2020, which is around 37 million people. Of these people living in poverty 22.1% of Black Americans lived in poverty and 24.1% of Native Americans lived in poverty, contrasting to that 10.6% of White Americans living in poverty. So from these statistics, we see that black and brown people of America (people of color) are more in danger to be living in poverty.

Another aspect of who is living in poverty is Intergenerational Poverty, also referred to as the cycle of poverty. This means that someone who is born into poverty is likely to stay in poverty. And someone who wasn’t born in poverty isn’t likely to become poor as they become adults and enter adulthood.

Why are these people living in Poverty?

The main causes that people live in poverty are rooted in discrimination and lack of resources/opportunities.lack of resources and opportunities can be someone not being able to have healthcare because they can’t pay for it, not having a job because there isn’t enough access to jobs, not having access to education (especially college). As well as not having access to affordable food. The reason we see a higher number of Black Americans and Native Americans living in poverty is because of the systematic disadvantages People of color have in America, it’s harder for people of color to get these opportunities of education and work in America than it is for white Americans. Other deeper cause to note on why we see high rates of poverty in people of color is because of colonization and slavery, these are the effects we are still seeing to this day from those actions.

What can be done about the Poverty situation?

Something you can do right now is to stay informed on poverty. But national ways to cut poverty rates are as listed.

  • Raise the minimum wage: By raising the minimum wage so better paying jobs or more accessible
  • Provide jobs that pay well: this goes hand in hand with raising the minimum wage but apart from that creating more jobs, not at the minimum wage level that pay well
  • Make healthcare more accessible to all: this could be seen as providing free health care and expanding the Affordable Care Act created under the Obama administration
  • Provide free college: providing free college opens up college as an opportunity for all people of all income statuses and will then allow people living in poverty to get an education to get better-paying jobs and move out of poverty.