What is Poverty?

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Updated: Oct 19, 2023
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What is Poverty?

An exploration of the multifaceted concept of poverty, going beyond mere economic measures to include aspects of social, educational, and health-related deprivation. The essay will aim to provide a holistic understanding of poverty, considering its causes, manifestations, and far-reaching implications. At PapersOwl, you’ll also come across free essay samples that pertain to Disease topic.

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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, and shelter.

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On the other hand, relative poverty 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 needs to be cut from $5189.00 to $2092.00 per month 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 calling 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. By eliminating one car, $500.00 was shaved off the original estimate. The more economical vehicle should be retained for further savings. If both the husband and wife work at the same place, the husband could drop the three-year-old off at daycare, then take the seven-year-old to school, then his wife to her job before going to his own job. This could reduce the auto insurance from $150.00 per month to $50.00 per month, registration from $14.00 per month to $7.00 per month, and vehicle maintenance from $60.00 per month to $49.00 per month. The cost of gas for commute with two vehicles could drop from $400.00 per month to $120.00 per month. Expenses for eating out and entertainment were entirely eliminated, saving $440.00 per month.

Daycare and summer care expenses cannot be reduced or eliminated as there are no family or friends to watch over the children while the parents work. The daycare for the three-year-old is $347.00 per month, about $80.00 per week. The summer care for the seven-year-old during two months of summer costs $50.00 per week, or $400.00. This amount, divided by twelve months, equals $33.00 per month. School lunches cost about $15.00 a week for ten months, which is roughly $50.00 per month. This cost might be eliminated or reduced by half since certain schools offer free lunch to all students regardless of income, while other school systems base their lunch prices on the number of people in the household and income. A family of four making $25,100.00 per year would qualify for free lunches, considering the income eligibility for a household size of four is $46,435.00 per year for free or reduced lunches (free and reduced, n.d.). During the summer, children can receive free meals through summer daycare programs offered by the school system. This information was sourced from a local schools’ before- and after-care program. The medical insurance premiums of $450.00 per month should not be reduced; however, some families choose to forgo medical coverage in order to afford essentials such as food, water, rent, and utilities. The original estimate also included a vacation expense of $4500 per year for a family of four, which was completely eliminated to bring down the monthly expenses of the family of four to their $2092.00 budget.

Next, I will discuss what most people perceive as needs, but are actually wants. I reduced the family’s two cellular phone bills from $80.00 per month to $20.00 per month by purchasing TracFones and securing a talk & text card that includes 1500 minutes of talk time, 1500 text messages, and 1.5 GB of data. The total cost of this card is $240.00, and the services included on this card should last for one year. This equates to 125 minutes of talk time and 125 text messages per month. If the phone is only used in emergencies, these minutes will last the entire year. The cable and internet bills, previously costing $189.00 and $40.00 per month respectively, were reduced to zero, as we eliminated both of these expenses. Cable and internet are not necessities; a family can live without them. The local public library provides both free internet access and movies for rent. This family used to eat out four times per month and go to the movies twice a month.

The quality of life for a family of four living on a budget of $25,100.00 per year is challenging. This family is at the government’s official poverty line and cannot afford many things that most take for granted. Taking vacations isn’t an option. Every child dreams of going to Disney World and seeing Mickey Mouse, but this family, like thousands of others, is unable to do this. I know they want their children to have things they did not grow up with, but without high paying jobs, this is not a possibility. The cost of living and medical insurance premiums are rising yearly, and most households do not even receive annual raises. Some families resort to falling below the poverty line to qualify for food stamps, rental assistance, utility assistance, and free or low-cost health insurance. Although this doesn’t seem the logical thing to do, sometimes it’s the only option. Families living at the poverty line can find free or economical alternatives for vacation. Public parks usually don’t charge an admission fee, and they can swim for free. If they live close to the ocean, day trips to the beach are possible. I’m not certain if anywhere in Tennessee offers free zoo admission. However, when I lived in New Jersey, it was free to visit the zoo – they only asked for a donation if you could afford it. The 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 don’t have to work every weekend, only when you want to. This way you can secure 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 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 McDonald’s. Although it may seem like a cheap, inexpensive meal that we assume 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 several hundred dollars a month. I never went without anything as a child.

Poverty has a lasting effect on 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 take a hit during these years because they do not have the same things that other children their age have. They disengage from 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 or at the poverty line tend to miss school more than children not raised in poverty, due to 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 are more likely to 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 can put even the highest income earners in poverty due to the monthly payments that are due once the student finishes college. Students still have to pay rent, utilities, car payments, in addition to 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 are 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 comfortably 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 not 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 lays 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 a healthy child development (Brooks-Gunn, 1997).

Early childhood poverty is a factor that affects not only brain architecture and neurological and endocrine functions, but also the probability of lifelong illnesses, such as cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes (Esposito, 2016). Most children living at the poverty line have limited healthcare or no healthcare coverage altogether. Consequently, when they become ill, their parents often attempt to treat them at home, as opposed to taking them to see a physician. These children are often not seen by a physician until their illness has reached an emergent stage. This can cause more damage, leading to chronic medical conditions that might affect their lives into adulthood. Children without adequate dental coverage may go their entire childhood without ever seeing a dentist; dental issues can lead to major medical issues later in life. Additionally, children who live in poverty have an increased chance of developing depression, which often continues throughout their lifetime and can affect job performance and increase absences from work. As these families hover on the poverty line, they do not qualify for government-assisted medical coverage, and parents usually have to choose between having a place to live or having medical insurance. With the average family cost of employer-sponsored healthcare lying between $400.00 and $600.00, sometimes higher per month, with $5,000 to $10,000 deductibles, most families – including some from the middle class – forgo healthcare coverage to provide for their families. As you can see, escaping from poverty is challenging and can create a perpetuating cycle where children end up living in poverty, followed by successive generations.

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What is Poverty?. (2019, May 25). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/what-is-poverty/