Sociology Essay: Effects of Poverty on Americans in the 1930s and Today

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Sewanee University of the South
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The American nation is the most bountiful and wealthiest nation in the world such that some people, even the Americans, think that poverty and hunger only occur in developing countries. Even though many people do not realize that there is poverty in the United States, the truth is that most Americans have been suffering because of the problems caused by poverty. In America, povertys face is quite different from the face of poverty in developing nations. For instance, a poor person in the United States is seen to be that single parent who does not afford to buy food, pay rent, medical bills, transport costs or even child care. Because of this, several Americans live in poverty and face the several effects of poverty that the government is still looking for ways to mitigate the effects among the people (Komro, et al 112). The core purpose of this essay is to identify the effects of poverty on Americans in the 1930s as well as today.

Poverty has been a network of disadvantages, each leading to another. The disadvantages result in generations of individuals who do not have access to health care, education, proper sanitation, good nutrition and adequate housing. These individuals become more vulnerable to systems of both economic and political oppression, armed conflicts and disasters. Also, they are powerless and are not able to improve their situations thus remain in abject poverty. Eventually, these people become hopeless, live in a paralyzing low self-esteem, dysfunctional societal relationship and families as well as spiritual darkness (Holzer, et al 44). These are the effects of poverty among the Americans that I am going to expound on some of them to distinguish between the effects of the 1930s and those of today.

Povertys Effect on Americans in the 1930s

After the great depression of the early 1930s, most individuals and families who were secured by home ownership and savings accounts become penniless abruptly and were no longer able to pay their mortgages off. The crisis led to many Americans living in poverty such that they were unable to pay for the necessities alone. The depression created two types of poor individuals in the United States. First, there were those whose poverty had become before the depression, the traditional poor. The second group was those who were made poor by the crisis through loss of savings, homes, and jobs. The high unemployment rates and availability of part-time jobs that paid lowly led to declining in income of most individuals and families subjective them to a life of severe poverty (Iceland 10).

The effects caused by the resulting poverty were several and were suffered by most Americans. The needy relatives overstretched the resources of those who were rich in their extended families. Men started living in low self-esteem, and they started deserting their wives at alarming role since they were no longer able to fulfill their role of providing in their families. Most young people, youths in the early twenties and late teens were forced to live with their parents and guardians and this created tension, frustration and tight quarters among them. Also, the young children contracted diseases such as pellagra and rickets because of being malnourished. The depression leads to several problems that either made families integrate together more that before or to break up either permanently or temporarily as well as leaving most families disorganized (Komro, et al 124).

Because of inequality and discrimination, most of the individuals that suffered the effects of depression after the crisis were the blacks. The reason for this is that they were denied their means of survival. Those who were farmers and owned land were forced off their lands. Those who had jobs were forced to give up their jobs to the whites (Iceland 12). Additionally, companies who had job vacancies could rather hire inexperienced white men and leave the experienced blacks. Also, teenage white boys, despite the fact they did not know anything, were employed instead of black men who knew how a job was done. This discrimination heightened the pangs of poverty among the blacks, and their lives became miserable since they could not afford the necessities in life. There was also the presence of the dust bowl, as per the information from Steinbecks novel Grapes of Wrath,' which made the lands unproductive (Chappell 20). This issue made the problem of poverty worse since the people could no longer grow food in most of the available land.

As a result of the depression, very many things changed in the lives of Americans. The gender roles for instance changed and men started assuming women roles when their wives were out trying to earn a living. This change of roles arose because of the difficulty in getting the basic needs due to severe poverty caused by the crisis. So if the wife was the one who was lucky to get a job, she could go to the world and leave all the households chores, from making the beds to cooking, to be done by the husband. Additionally, the lives of the many immigrants who depended on charities from various organizations changed from bad to worse. Since the organizations no longer had sufficient funds because of loses during the crisis, they were unable to provide charities any more thus the immigrants led perilous lives (Holzer, et al 50).

Povertys Effect on Americans Today

According to statistics, the present Americas poverty rate is approximately 15 percent meaning that one out of six individuals lives below or at the poverty level. Children who live in poverty are said to be more than one in every five kids. The rate of poverty for households raised by a single mother is approximately 31 percent thus in every three single mothers; one lives in poverty. These data shows that many people in America are living in poverty at present and suffer the several effects of poverty.

Among the most severe effects of poverty in America currently is the effect on education. Despite being among the most developed nations in the world, the United States is one of the nations that have a high rate of childhood poverty that affects education as a whole. When children are raised in poverty, their preparedness to begin school is reduced. The reason behind this is that poverty is associated with poor health physically, reduced motivation, attentiveness and curiosity as well as diminished ability to concentrate and remember what has been taught. In the United States, most children from poor families join school when they have a gap in their readiness to learn. The gap broadens as the children grow older since the children feel separate from the society because of the much insecurity they suffer. They live in fear of the povertys consequences, anger for the society since it does not help in their struggle and feel powerless always. Due to all these insecurities and problems, the children from poor backgrounds score less than those from wealthy backgrounds, and this causes them to drop from school (Berliner 20).

Poverty also affects the health of people adversely. People living in poverty usually live far away from the hospital and do not have access to primary health care doctors. Many of the poor people also cannot afford to pay for the expensive treatments, and since they mainly work in part-time jobs which do not offer health insurance, they are unable to pay for the insurance themselves. Another way in which poverty contributes to poor health is that poor people are unable to buy healthy food. They mainly rely on the cheap processed food and salty snacks that cause diabetes, hypertension, and obesity rather that the expensive fresh products that are good for human health. The poor also mainly live in areas with poor sanitation hence are easily exposed to pollution-related diseases such as asthma and kidney problems. Air pollution is also associated with higher rates of infant mortality and low weights during birth (Holzer, et al 56).

Crime is a social evil mainly caused by poverty. Crime is very high in areas affected by poverty since individual engage in wrong acts such as robbery, burglary, and theft so as to get money for their basic needs. Also, poverty has increased the rate of child labour since the children need to work even while under age so as to help their parents pay for the social amenities, food, and clothes. In areas of abject poverty, there is also the effect of poor or lack of basic hygiene. Poor people cannot afford the toiletries and even water for cleaning their homes, clothes, and bodies. Lack of the facilities makes them live in poor hygiene day in, day out. Another effect is that since poverty causes stress and despair, the victims always succumb to drug and other substances abuse so as to cope with the stressful situations (Komro, et al 132).

Poverty is the main reason for the presence of social tensions that leads to division in a nation due to the inequality in the ownership of resources by the citizens (Berliner 25). This effect is very common when the wealth of a nation is poorly and unfairly distributed among the citizens. For instance, when a small number of the people own most of the resources, the majority will always cause tension as they fight to take some of the resources from the wealthy. The problem of poverty is very dangerous that lead to clashes and riots if resources are not shared fairly. Additionally, it can cause a great instability in an entire nation.

In conclusion, the effects of poverty can be reduced or even done away with but not depending on the traditional aids alone. The problem can be solved successfully by equipping the individuals living in poverty with means that will help them free themselves holistically from poverty. It also means that every person should not be abandoned no matter their status, race of religion. Doing this will ensure fair allocation of resources hence all the citizens in America will be able to live better lives free from poverty.

Works Cited

Berliner, David. "Effects of inequality and poverty vs. teachers and schooling on Americas youth." Teachers College Record 115.12 (2013): 1-26.

Chappell, Marisa. The war on welfare: Family, poverty, and politics in modern America. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Holzer, Harry J., et al. "The economic costs of childhood poverty in the United States." Journal of Children and Poverty 14.1 (2008): 41-61.

Komro, Kelli A., et al. "Creating nurturing environments: A science-based framework for promoting child health and development within high-poverty neighborhoods." Clinical child and family psychology review 14.2 (2011): 111-134.

Iceland, John. Poverty in America: A handbook. University of California Press, 2013.

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