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Posted by: Mark Putney | November 19, 2013 | No Comment |


When people think of poverty, they often think of the third world countries with an overwhelming number of lower class citizens. Many believe that the United States has little to no lower class citizens in poverty, yet the numbers prove otherwise.

I decided to head out and take a survey to find out what Homer High School students think. When asked what poverty is, most people described a definition similar to the one found in Merriam-Webster online dictionary which states, “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”

One respondent replied, “Homeless people,” which I believed to be true until fairly recently.

According to the New York Times, “Poverty in America Is Mainstream,” people victimize those in poverty with stereotypes and misconceptions. On the IRP (Institute for Research on Poverty) website, the average poverty threshold for a family of two is $14,937 and $23,492 for a family of four. I never before considered those with debts, medical bills, food stamps and others to be in poverty. The census bureau has a climbing population of about 317 million and counting with numbers based off of the 2010 national census. The poverty usa website states that over 46 million Americans live in poverty which is approximately 14.5 percent.

The article from the New York Times previously mentioned said 40 percent of the U.S. lives in poverty each year. To put that in numbers, 126.8 million Americans cross the poverty line each year. Although most households do not stay in poverty for very long, still those numbers represents the east coast and a few states in the mid-west. I asked in the survey how many Americans were believed to be in poverty every year, and most said the answer is millions worldwide or about 100,000 Americans. This shocked me how people really do not know what happens in our own economy.

It puzzled me at what makes up those millions of people that go unnoticed in poverty; it prompted me to ask how people move into poverty.

“Everywhere, mainly in developing or less developed countries like most of Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, parts of India and China, etc. but even in developed countries poverty exists. Here in Homer there are currently between 40 and 80 homeless people and over 1,500 homeless in Alaska,” said one of the survey takers who seemed to have the most general knowledge about poverty.

Many of the responses included drugs, alcohol and other bad life decisions. Contrary to the popular belief, statistics show that those working minimum wage, in need of food stamps, in debt account for the majority of those below the poverty line.

In these thoughts came one last question I added to the survey that asked what should people do to reduce the amount of people in poverty in America. The diversity of ideas overwhelmed me. More jobs, no taxes, and wealthy sharing their money were the top responses.

Here is my question to you, the reader: When is America going to stop believing in the stereotypes and false rumors and help the citizens that struggle constantly to get by day to day?


under: Opinion

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