The Extent of Poverty in the United States

Poverty in the United States

Fifteen percent of the population in the United States lives below the poverty line; that is, it makes less than half of the population’s median household income, which is a population of 46.2 million. An additional detail to this poverty statistics is that this poor proportion of the population is not evenly distributed across age, gender, and ethnicity; thus, poverty is social patterning. The ethnicities in terms of ethnicity in the United States are African Americans, Latinx Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and White. Therefore, there is a racial image of poor people in which is predominantly African American.

Here is the actual data on poverty in the United States, 42.4 percent of the poor population is White, 28.7 percent is Latino, and 23.1 percent is Black, while 3.7percent is Asian. Therefore, out of the 46.2 million poor Americans, 19.6 million are Non-Latino White. Another interesting statistic is that 27.4 percent of the African Americans are poor, 26.6 percent among Latinos, and only 9.9 percent of non-Latino Whites. Despite many poor white people, it is clear that Latino and African Americans are three times more likely to be poor than Non-Latino Whites (Espinosa et al.,2019). This indicates that the minority demographics are poor, something that policymakers should address well.

Poverty in the United States

Some People Don’t Want to Work

The Occam’s razor in the case of poverty in the United States, which is a First World country, is that the reason for poverty is laziness and that individuals and households can rise above the poverty line if they worked hard. However, this point of view is wrong because the poorest in the society cannot work or gave no access to a job opportunity, which presents a case that policymakers can address poverty in the United States at the macro level instead of at the individual level.

This can be accurately illustrated with the distribution of the poor population, whereby up to eighty percent of the poor Americans are either working or pursuing job opportunities. Therefore, Occam’s razor point of view is nothing but a fallacy, in that the poor are not lazy. The statement that the poor could have an opportunity to raise themselves above the poverty line if they wanted is a myth and inherently racist due to the apparent association between the minority communities and poverty (Meyer et al., 2021). Furthermore, it prevents the policymakers from convincing the rest of the country of the need to take deliberate measures to raise the Americans above the poverty line.

Consequences of Poverty

Poverty has overwhelming consequences to the population, something that is well documented by research by non-profit organizations, government agencies, and scholars. It is generally clear that people who grow up poor are most likely to remain poor as adults, as only one percent of the people who grow up above the poverty line end up poo, while 32 percent of people who grew up poor remain poor in their adulthood.

One consequence of poverty is that the poor are more likely to face domestic violence and divorce problems, something that can be associated with the stress of running a poor household. Furthermore, poverty negatively affects the cognitive abilities of poor children, something that affects their learning potential and behavior and thus impairing their ability to rise above the poverty line.

Poor people have a greater chance of experiencing health problems such as mental illness, early adulthood mortality, and infant mortality. This is due to the lack of opportunity to live a healthy life, which can be attributed to their lack of knowledge and information. Poor people have limited access to educational opportunities due to inadequate facilities, leading to relatively poor educational opportunities. The poor cannot afford decent housing, thus have no housing at all, or reside in dilapidated housing conditions. Therefore, poverty is a condition that requires to be eradicated.

How the United States Compares to Other Western Democracies in Regards to Poverty

Another interesting fact about poverty in the United States is that they are twice the figures in democracies in the Western World. This can be attributed to the labor unions’ effect being more robust and thus pushing for higher minimum wages. Furthermore, the government in these countries tends to dedicate a more significant proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP) to social expenditures such as housing allowance and childcare subsidies.

On the other hand, there is no universal health insurance, job creation, and training, and public supported housing in the United States, whiles other countries such as the United Kingdom, where the government applies expansive measures to eradicate poverty and improve the general level of the quality of life. This has been facilitated the increase in the national minimum wage and progressive taxation whereby the lower-income earners have taxed a smaller proportion of their income.

Furthermore, the government has increased the child welfare allowances along with the increase in paid maternity. This has eased the effects of poverty on the population’s quality of life, which gradually eradicates the vicious cycle of poverty. Therefore the level of poverty in the United States reflects the government’s lack of dedication to improving the quality of life, even after the success of poverty eradication strategies in other counties.

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The Difference in Poverty Policy Between American and other Western Democracies

Researchers have pointed out that there is a common belief among Americans that the government is incompetent as responsible for the disparity in poverty levels between the United States and other Western democracies such as the United States. The narrative in the United States is that anti-poverty programming would be facilitated a change in cultural the cultural attitude towards work. The poverty statistics in the United Kingdom have proven that a competent government can effectively eliminate the vicious cycle of poverty within the economy. This can be attributed to the easing of the consequences of poverty in the population, thus preventing further poverty in the United States.

The United States government can allow for the formation of strong labor unions to protect the best interest of the workers, hence their ability to improve their quality of life. The government can also increase the child welfare benefits, even when the child’s parents do not work. To protect the cognitive and other forms of development of children, the government can ensure that parents get paid maternity leave to spend time with their children. This reduces the disparity in the quality of life, thus providing all children in the country with an equal chance to improve their lives across their lifetimes.

Poverty in the United States

Why Sociologists Understand Race as a Social, Rather Than Biological, Set of Categories

Race is a system of categorizing people according to their inherent physical traits such as stature, facial feature, and skin color. People with a similar set of traits are categorized as members of the same race, such as African and Asian Latinx and non-Latinx White people. These traits are transmitted genetically, which does not mean there are inherent differences between people from different races.

These differences in physical characteristics may be due to the evolutional adaption to the physical environment. Over the years, there has been an argument that people from particular races are inherently superior to others and thus should be treated better. However, from a historical perspective, the people who are now categorized as white, and therefore members of the superior race, come from different ethnicities, Italians and Irish.

This indicates that there has been a cultural change in perception of the superior demographics, indicating that race is a social construct. Despite the lack of inherent biological differences in race, however, there are clear differences in life qualities across different racial backgrounds (Suzuki, 2017). Therefore, the racial inequality in the quality of life can be attributed to the different ways people from different racial backgrounds are treated differently. The cultural impact of how different races are treated, for example, enslavement, has led to the high poverty rates among the African American people.

The Difference Between the Concept of Race and the Concept of Ethnicity

The race is a system of categorizing people according to similar inherent traits such as stature, facial feature, and skin color. On the other hand, ethnicity is the shared historical, social, and cultural experiences of people with different regional backgrounds. Ethnicity is a preferable concept among social scientists because race is a biological connotation, while ethnicity claims differences in behavior, values, and beliefs.

This is in the attempt to eradicate the negative connotation of race in the categorization of people due to its historical connotation. Therefore, if there are differences in how different people conduct themselves, something that might impact their quality of life; these differences are the environment and culture in which they are bred rather than their inherent biological differences.

Additionally, ethnicity provides various people with a sense of identity and thus belonging to a larger group based on the similarity of experiences. Sociologists fear that it may lead to ethnic cleansing during times of ethnic-based hatred, prejudice, and conflict. Therefore, it is important to note that the differences in culture of people from different races influence their way of living and, at times, their overall quality of life. Furthermore, it provides an individual with the freedom to belong to an ethnic group of their choice, unlike race.

The Difference Between Prejudice and Discrimination

Prejudice is a preconceived notion that is not based on actual experiences and reason, based on their membership to a given ethnic group. On the other hand, discrimination is an unjust and prejudicial treatment of people based on their race, ability, age, and sex. These two concepts are often confused by scholars; however, prejudice is an attitude towards people of a different identity, while discrimination involves acting on this attitude. Ethnic prejudice is often the negative judgment, beliefs, and attitudes associated with their perceived ethnicity. In certain societies, people from particular races may be perceived as inferior, thus the basis of poverty in the United States.

The basis of racial prejudice is, in most cases on oversimplified and mistaken generalizations, where some cultures hold prejudices against particular ethnicities. One such prejudice is that White people are more likely to have higher intelligence than Black people (Christian et al., 2019). Therefore stereotyping is one of the major social-psychological explanations, whereby there is an overgeneralized perception of people from a particular ethnicity.

poverty in the United States

There is an inference that an individual possesses the entire range of traits that other members of society possess. This can be used in the regulation of behavior when one meets people from particular ethnicities. It ignores the uniqueness of the individual and treats them as an agent of their ethnicity.

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The Main Sociological Explanations of Prejudice

According to social learning theory, one of the most predominant sociological explanations of prejudice is socialization and conformities. The people who hold prejudice are conforming to the culture within which they develop to appeal to the people around them. These prejudices are exposed when the individual move from an area where they are less prejudiced. For example, Americans from the South may feel more prejudiced than the Non-Southerners four decades after the legal segregations.

People may leverage the prejudice with a vested interest to gain an advantage during times of competition. This is often used against people whose political and ethnic standing. The lynching of the African American community is evident in the South despite the overall improvement in the economy. Furthermore, Chinese immigrants are often prejudiced, thus leading them to be slowed due to their large labor supply. According to the ethnic competition theory, people from a given ethnic group competing goals in housing and jobs.

The Changing Nature of Prejudice

Ethnic and racial prejudice has existed consistently in the United States; however, its nature has changed over time. In the 1940s, the Jim Crow era was underway, which was overt prejudice. This was based on the perception that there was a need for segregation. The perception of segregation has reduced significantly over the years and was gradually replaced with other forms of subtle prejudice, namely modern, symbolic, and laissez-faire racism. This has led to the cultural inferiority that the government has suppressed over the years (Christian et al., 2019).

This cultural perception has facilitated the perception that African American is less motivated to work which is the cause their low socioeconomic status. The existence of prejudice on the cultural level had influenced government policy to appeal to that demographic, something that has facilitated the existence of prejudicial policies.

The Extent of Poverty in the United States


  • Christian, M., Seamster, L., & Ray, V. (2019). New directions in critical race theory and sociology: Racism, white supremacy, and resistance. American behavioral scientist63(13), 1731-1740.
  • Espinosa, L. L., Turk, J. M., Taylor, M., & Chessman, H. M. (2019). Race and ethnicity in higher education: A status report.
  • Meyer, B. D., Wu, D., Mooers, V., & Medalia, C. (2021). The use and misuse of income data and extreme poverty in the United States. Journal of Labor Economics39(S1), S5-S58.
  • Suzuki, K. (2017). A critical assessment of comparative sociology of race and ethnicitySociology of Race and Ethnicity3(3), 287-300.

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