Poverty and children in the U.S.

Today's world is marked by numerous changes, all affecting life as we once knew. Globalization, the excessive industrial revolution commenced two centuries ago, various technological advancements, economic growth, all change the world as well as the individual. The contemporaneous society is centred on consumerism and the American individual works up to 50 hours a week so he can buy more. This accelerated rate of consumerism destroys the planet and it destroys the developing countries where America has moved its natural extractions activities because U.S. is running out of them. The core of today's economy and society is the corporation which does not think in perspective nor does it care about the future of the planet. And the sad thing is that we as individuals play along in this game of massive purchases contributing as such to the destruction of our home. But it's not just the planet we destroy in the process, is also our children's future too. Due to this imposed modern culture, American children become more illiterate, more overweight and due to globalization and changing society patterns, poorer with every day.

2. Social Inequality

Growing globalization and market liberalization have opened the borders to trade with all commodities and resources generating several beneficial economic effects. But a frightening social effect is that it made the poor even poorer and the rich even richer. In other words, it widened the gap between social classes and even further increased the income inequality, the primary generator of social inequality within the U.S. And outside it. There is no such thing as a society without classes, but some countries, such as the former Soviet Union have stated not to base their social organizations on classes. Income inequality is forwarded by economists who state that it is necessary so to differentiate individuals based on skills, education, job positions detained or other objective criteria. Foremost, perfect equality between individuals has only been attempted in the communist regions and the change of the regime has brought long-term negative effects and decades of struggle. "Every society is marked by inequality, with some people having more money, schooling, health and power than others. Social stratification, defined as a system by which a society ranks categories of people, involves four basic principles:

Social stratification is a trait of society, not simply a reflection of individual differences

Social stratification carries over from generation to generation

Social stratification is universal but variable

Social stratification involves not just inequality but beliefs" (Macionis, 2006).

The advocates of social inequality argue that the long-term effects are beneficial for society as a whole moreover when the accumulated wealth becomes distributed along the years. John Macionis said that "over time, even wealth becomes somewhat less concentrated [...]. In the 1920s, the richest 1% of U.S. families owned about 40% of all wealth, a figure that fell to 30% by the 1980s" (Macionis, 2006). Foremost, he states the being a country that has passed already through the industrial revolution, the United States have managed to reduce their income inequality. This situation was mostly due to the economic growth and population's living out of several industries, rather than just agriculture, like in the countries that register high rates of income inequality. In all, according to Macionis, the United States of America has reduced the income gap between its inhabitants due to increased industrial and technological advancements, but also due to the clearly established political and economic goals. But even so, "of all high-income nations, the United States has the greatest income inequality [...] Generally speaking, the United States stands out among high-income nations, such as Great Britain, Sweden, Japan and Australia, as having greater income inequality" (Macionis, 2006). Here is how wealth and income were distributed in the territory of the United States in the beginning of the twentieth century:

Source: Macionis, J.J., 2006, Society: The Basics, 8th Edition, Prentice Hall

3. Poverty in the United States

More than 20% of the total American population lives below the poverty line. And the economic status of the past years has done little to help resolve this situation. Several trends have been observed within the United States, including the youth's tendency to remain at home due to lack of adequate jobs, a stagnation in the wages or the fact that several individuals get a second or even third job to make ends meet. "Low income makes their lives insecure and difficult. In 2003, the federal government classified 35.9 million people (12.5% of the population) as poor. Millions more, called the 'working poor', are just slightly better of, holding low-prestige jobs that provide little satisfaction and minimal income. Barely half manage to complete high school, and only one in four ever reaches college. Society segregates the lower class, especially when the poor are racial or ethnic minorities. About 40% of lower-class families own their own home, typically in the least desirable neighbourhoods. Although poor neighbourhoods are found in inner cities, lower-class families also live in rural areas, especially across the South" (Macionis, 2006).

A forwarded cause of increasing poverty and lack of adequate jobs is the increasing rate of immigration onto the northern regions of the American continent. The legal and illegal immigrants generally come from South America, have reduced to none education and work for the lowest wages. As such, they take the jobs of the native born Americans who are now incapable to hold even the lowest paid positions.

However no accurate description of the poor individuals can be offered, a generic portrait can be established with the aid of years of research and empirical data. In this order of ideas, the poor can be organized based on age, gender, race and location in urban or rural areas.

Age: during the previous centuries the elderly were generally the poorest, but today, due to retirement plans the situation has improved (60% in 1967 fell to 10.2% in 2003); today, the most age group subjected to poverty are the children

Race and ethnicity: those who belong to an ethic group are often more likely to be poor than a native born American; African-Americans are the most susceptible to poverty; in 2003, 24.4 of African-Americans in the U.S. were living in poverty, for the Hispanics, it was 22.5%, 11.8% for the Asian and Pacific Islanders and 8.2% for non-Hispanic whites

Gender: 60% of the poor are women and 40% are men; out of poor families, 51% are held by a single mother and 8% are held by a single father

Urban and rural: unlike the general belief that poverty is most common in rural areas, the highest rates are met in the centers of large cities; the rates are as follows: central cities - 17.5%, suburbs - 9%, urban areas - 12.2%, rural areas - 14.2% (Macionis, 2006).

Combined studies of childhood poverty within the United States have revealed that in rural counties, child poverty is significantly increased than in urban areas. "Of the 100 counties with the highest child poverty rates in 2005, 95 are rural counties. All 100 counties have child poverty rates above 40%, more than twice the national rate of 18.5% in 2005" (O'Hare and Mather, 2008).

4. Children in the United States

However social stratification and poverty affect all inhabitants of a region, children are often more susceptible and likely to be influenced on the long-term. Aside from the personal ways in which poverty can influence a child, such as rejection and labelling at school, there are also some more severe aspects. In this particular sense, a need to analyze the relationship between income inequality and the educational system within the United States arises. Most scholars tend to agree that however in theory access to education is free and easy for all children, the situation is different in practice. "Industrial societies expand opportunities for schooling, but some people still receive much more than others" (Macionis, 2006). And this only contributes to the further deepening of the gap as it prevents the children of poor individuals from getting a proper education and consequently getting a better paid job. "Schooling affects both occupation and income because most (but not all) of the better-paying jobs, white collar jobs [...] require a college degree or other advanced study. By contrast, most blue-collar jobs, which bring lower income and less social prestige, require less schooling" (Macionis, 2006).

The situation of reduced access to education is causing severe long-term implications and it is even more drastic when today already children constitute the largest category of the country's poor. "Today, the burden of poverty falls most heavily on children. In 2003, 17.6% of people under age eighteen (12.9 million children) were poor. Put another way, 36% of the U.S. poor are children" (Macionis, 2006). An explanation for this situation can be offered by changes in social structures. In this particular sense, Stephen Baskerville reveals that, despite the authorities' efforts to encourage marriage and the reduction of children conceived outside wedlock, the number of two-parent families has decreased…