What is Poverty?
Poverty is a pervasive human condition of being unable to obtain or provide a standard level of food, water, and/or shelter (Fay, n.d.). The United states has the highest rate of poverty among wealthy countries. The official poverty line is based on what the federal government considers to be the minimum amount of money required for living at a subsistence level (Kendell, 2018). Sociologists define poverty in two ways, absolute and relative. Absolute poverty is when the household income is so low that the family cannot afford the basic necessities such as food, water, shelter. Relative poverty on the other hand is when the family can meet the basic human needs, but do not have the disposable income to live at the economic standards of other people within their surroundings. The family in the descriptor is considered to be living in relative poverty because they can provide the basic needs but are unable to afford anything above that. Families such as these are not afforded the luxuries that most of us take for granted.
The goods and services that I included in my monthly budget were utilities, rent, food, daycare, auto payments, auto insurance, cable, internet, phone, school lunches, movies, eating out, healthcare insurance premiums plus copays and deductibles, vacations, and credit card payments. Based on the original list a total of $5189.00 was spent monthly. The monthly cost of these goods and services must to be cut from $5189.00 to $2092.00 per month in order to be within the family’s monthly income range. This was a very difficult task, but by getting rid of a lot of the wants and some of what most families feel are needs, I was able to get within $100.00 of the monthly income. A lot of apartment complexes are income based, if they are able to move into one of these complexes, $365.00 would be shaved off the monthly rent, taking the rent payment from $1000.00 per month to $635.00 per month. I got these figures by call several apartment complexes in my area and asking if they were income based, their income limits, and what rent would be for a two-bedroom apartment for someone who makes $25,100.00 per year. I next reduced the monthly electric from $200.00 per month to $150.00 per month, by keeping the thermostat on 68 degrees year-round and during the spring, summer, and early fall, opening the windows to cool off the apartment instead of running the air conditioner. All the original utilities came from speaking to my mother about the average cost of her utilities which included herself, and three other people living in her household.
The food budget was reduced from $300.00 per month to $250.00 per month by eliminating junk foods like chips, candy, sodas, and buying store brand instead of name brand foods. The original estimate for two car payments was $850.00 per month. One of these cars was eliminated which shaved $500.00 off of the original estimate. They should keep the more economical vehicle in order to further save money. If both the husband and wife work in the same, the husband can drop the three-year-old off at daycare, then drop the seven-year-old off at school, then his wife to her job before going to his job. This in turn would make the auto insurance go from $150.00 per month to $50.00 per month, registration goes from $14.00 per month to $7.00 per month, vehicle maintenance goes from $60.00 per month to $49.00 per month. Gas to and from work for two vehicles would go from $400.00 per month to $120.00 per month. Both the eating out and entertainment were eliminated. A total of $440.00 per month was saved here.
Daycare and summer care could not be reduced or eliminated since there are no other family or friends who can sit with the children while the parents are at work. The daycare for the three-year-old is $347.00 per month about $80.00 per week. Summer care for two months during the summer for the seven-year-old costs $50.00 per week for eight weeks during the summer, which came out to $400.00. This number was divided by 12 months equals $33.00 per month. School lunches costs about $15.00 a week for 10 months which would come out to about $50.00 a month. This can either be eliminated or reduced by half since some schools offer free lunch to all students regardless of income. Others school systems base their lunch prices on the number of people in the household and income. Based on the income eligibility a household size of four can make $46,435.00 per year and still qualify for free or reduced lunches (free and reduced, n.d.). So, a family of four making $25,100.00 per year would qualify for free lunches. During the summer, children can get free meals when attending summer daycare programs offered through the school system. This information was obtained from a local schools’ before and after care program. The monthly medical insurance premiums of $450.00 per month should not be touched, but most families will make the choice of going without medical coverage in order to be able to afford the monthly necessities such as food, water, rent, and utilities. There was also a vacation expense in the original estimate which was $4500 per year for a family of four. This was totally eliminated to get the family of 4 within their $2092.00 monthly expenses.
Next, I will discuss what most people feel are needs but are actually wants. I reduced the families two cellular phone bills from $80.00 per month to $20.00 per month by getting TracFone’s and getting the talk & text card that includes 1500 minutes talk time, 1500 text messages, and 1.5 GB data. The total cost of this card is $240.00, and the services included on this card should last for one year. This gives you 125 minutes of talk time and 125 text messages per month. If the phone is only used in emergency situations these minutes will last the entire year. The cable and internet went from $189.00 per month and $40.00 per month to zero dollars per month, since both of these expenses were eliminated. Cable and internet are not a necessity and is something that a family can live without. The local public library provides both free internet access and movies that can be rented. Eating out was done four times per month and going to movies twice per month.
The quality of life for a family of four living on a budget of $25,100.00 per year is not very good. This family is at the government’s official poverty line and cannot afford things that most of take for granted. Taking vacations is not even an option. All children have the dream of going to Disney World and seeing Mickey Mouse, but this family along with thousands of others are unable to do this. I know they want their kids to have the things they did not have growing up, but without high paying jobs, this is not even a possibility. The cost of living and medical insurance premiums are going up yearly and most households do not even get yearly raises on their jobs. Some families have chosen the option of going below the poverty line in order to qualify for food stamps, rental assistance, utility assistance, and free or low-cost health insurance. Although this does not seem the logical thing to do, but sometimes this is the only option. Families living at the poverty line can find free or low-cost alternatives to vacationing. Public parks usually do not charge an admission fee and you can also swim for free. If you live close to the ocean, you can take day trips to the beach. I’m not sure if anywhere around Tennessee has free zoo admission, but when I lived in New Jersey it was free to go to the zoo; they only asked for a donation if you could afford it. Bridgestone arena sometimes gives away unsold tickets to certain events. You would need to speak to someone who works there or even better work the events on the weekends on an as needed basis. You do not have to work every weekend only when you want. This way you can get your own free tickets and take the kids to Disney on ice, hockey games, and concerts.
These families go without a lot more than just vacations. They do not have extra money in case of car breakdowns and emergency medical services. If they miss work due to a personal illness or a sick child, and do not have vacation or sick days, their checks will be smaller for that week. This may end up putting them in jeopardy of doing without some of the monthly necessities. Schools frown upon sending sick kids to school. There are some children who do not have the luxury of even eating out, even at fast food restaurants. I had a couple of friends in high school who had never eaten at McDonalds. Although it may seem like a cheap, inexpensive meal that we feel everyone should be able to afford, it is not always the case. I participated in every extracurricular activity that I could during my elementary and middle school years. I know the monthly fees for the activities had to be upwards of a several hundred dollars a month. I never went without anything as a child.
Poverty has a lasting effect on the children’s lives even after they become adults. Children who experience poverty have an increased chance of dropping out and never completing high school. Their self-esteem and emotional wellbeing takes a hit during these years because they do not have the same things that other children their age have. They disengage in school, do not participate in activities, and eventually become loners. They are often left out when it comes to school activities or trips that require a fee because their parents do not have the money to pay for these activities. Children raised in poverty and at the poverty line tend to miss school more than children not raised in poverty because of illnesses and unaffordable medical care. These children often harbor resentment towards their parents because of their financial situation.
Children living at this level of poverty will more likely have to skip college because most students do not qualify for full grants to cover both tuition and housing. This means that the child would have to depend on student loans or their parents to pay the remainder of the tuition. As we all know, student loan debt to put even the highest income makers in poverty because of the monthly payments that are due once the student finishes college. Students still have to pay rent, utilities, car payments, plus the student loans.
Each succeeding generation of undereducated adults merely replaces the one before it without achieving any upward mobility or escape from poverty (Fay, n.d.). If a child skips college altogether, their prospects of getting a job paying a decent wage is limited. Since they have no secondary education or skills, they would be lucky to make above minimum wage. With the cost of living going up yearly, no adult can live comfortable off of $7.25 per hour. These jobs are usually not full-time. Most people end up working two part-time jobs to make a full-time salary. These part-time jobs do no offer healthcare and if they do, it is so expensive that it would not be logical to sign up for it. Since child development during early years lay the foundation for later health and development, children must be given the best possible start in life. A family’s income is a key determinant of healthy child development (?¬Brooks-Gunn, 1997).
Early childhood poverty is a factor that affects not only the brain architecture and neurologic and endocrine functions but affects the probability of lifelong illnesses such as cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes (Esposito, 2016). Since most children who live at the poverty line have limited healthcare or no healthcare coverage altogether, when they become ill, the parents often try to treat them at home instead of taking them to see a physician. These children are often not seen by a physician until the illness has gotten to an emergent stage. This can cause more damage, thus leading to chronic medical conditions. These conditions will likely affect their lives throughout adulthood. Children without adequate dental coverage may go their entire childhood without ever seeing a dentist. Dental issues can end up causing some major medical issues later in life. Children who live in poverty also have an increased chance of depression. This depression usually continues throughout their lifetime, which can affect their job performance and increased absences from work. Since this family is at the poverty line, they do not qualify for government assisted medical coverage. The parents usually have to choose between having a place to live versus having medical insurance. They usually choose the having a place to live and food to eat. With the average family cost of employer sponsored healthcare being between $400.00 and $600.00 and sometimes higher per month, and with $5000 and $10,000 deductibles, most families including some middle-class families have to do without healthcare coverage just to be able to provide for their families. As you can see, escaping from poverty is very difficult and can lead to a rotating cycle in which their children end up living in poverty, then their children after them, then so on and so forth.