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Causes of Poverty in America

Causes of Poverty in America
Poverty levels in America have usually hovered in the double-digit figures, and according to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau, around 14.8% of Americans lived in poverty. There are numerous factors that have contributed to poverty levels in America. In this OpinionFront article, we will try to elucidate these factors.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
America is one of the most developed nations of the world, but in spite of it, around 46.7 million people live in poverty. The task of surveying the poverty levels in the country, and in each state, is carried out by the U.S. Census Bureau. Since 1965, the U.S. Census Bureau prepares two reports to measure federal poverty; these are poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines. According to (2016), the poverty threshold for a family of four individuals is $24, 250. Despite being a global power, with $601 billion military budget (2015 est.), why are millions of Americans reeling under poverty? We will try to answer this question in the following paragraphs.
What are the Causes of Poverty in America?
The definition of 'poor' primarily revolves around the purchasing power of an individual. It may not always be related to fulfillment of basic needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter. In that context, one has to consider the purchasing power of an individual with respect to the average population.
Just as the definition of poverty changes as per the context, the causes of poverty also differ in that sense. While population explosion, lack of infrastructure, corruption, natural disasters, political instability, and war are some causes of poverty in third world countries, poverty in America is on account of some other factors. Let us highlight these in the following sections.
Shift in Business Economy
Earlier, the American economy was greatly dependent upon manufacturing industries, such as steel, textile, automobiles, etc. These industries presented a number of opportunities to the uneducated, but capable labor. Most of the workforce constituted of African-Americans. However, this scenario has undergone a change with the emergence of new economical sectors such as Health Care and Information Technology. As a result of this, the reliance of American economy on the traditional manufacturing sector has reduced. These sectors demand highly educated and trained professionals, which has caused a loss of business opportunities for the minimally educated workforce, leading to an increase in unemployment and poverty.
Lack of Education
Lack of education flatly translates to lack of employment opportunities, which eventually leads to poverty. As the demand for laborious jobs has diminished, uneducated people are left to welter in poverty. As these people neither have the compulsory education nor the required skills, they have little or no prospects in gaining employment. This factor has led to an increase in the poverty levels over the years.
Rise of Suburbs
Most American cities have sprawled to the outskirts, leading to the creation of suburbs. Suburbs offer better living conditions to people. Naturally, many businesses have shifted their base to the newly developed areas. People who have stayed back in the core cities face a steep shortage of employment opportunities, which in turn leads to poverty.
Breakdown of Family System
Increase in divorce rates means that more number of families are headed by single parents. They face the challenge of raising a family on a single source of income. Women, especially are more affected by this. Lack of education, unplanned pregnancies, etc., compound the problems of single mothers. As a result, they cannot find suitable employment to run their homes. Due to this, many a time, the entire family then gets dragged into poverty.
Limited Effect of Government Policies
A country of America's stature should not even have minimal levels of poverty. The government has been involved in creating numerous welfare plans for the poor, but it has to be said that there is a lot of work to be done in this regard. War on poverty needs to be won at all costs, and the government should make it their top priority. There are certain challenges in curbing the menace of poverty and it definitely will take some years to eradicate, or minimize it; with the right approach, there is no reason why that can't happen sooner.

While dealing with the issue of poverty, one cannot overlook the condition of minorities. As the numbers will tell you, the poverty levels among minorities are disproportional to their population. The government should keep this in mind while implementing a holistic approach to curb poverty.