Poverty in America
Any discussion of social class and mobility would be incomplete without a discussion of poverty. In 2009, 14.3 percent of all persons lived in poverty. In 1993 the poverty rate was 15.1 percent. Between 1993 and 2000, the poverty rate fell each year, reaching 11.3 percent in 2000 (Poverty Facts). Of course, like all other social science statistics, these are not without controversy. This is why many sociologists prefer a relative, rather than an absolute, definition of poverty. According to the definition of relative poverty, the poor are those who lack what is needed by most Americans to live decently because they earn less than half of the nation's median income (Poverty Facts). By this standard, around 20 percent of Americans live in poverty, and this has been the case for at least the past 40 years. Of these 20 percent, 60 percent are from the working class poor (Poverty Facts).
Causes of poverty
Poverty is an exceptionally complicated social phenomenon, and trying to discover its causes is equally complicated. The stereotypic (and simplistic) explanation persists—that the poor cause their own poverty. Some theorists have accused the poor of having little concern for the future and preferring to “live for the moment”; others have accused them of engaging in self-defeating behavior. Still other theorists have characterized the poor as fatalists, resigning themselves to a culture of poverty in which nothing can be done to change their economic outcomes. In this culture of poverty—which normally passes from generation to generation—the poor feel negative, inferior, passive, hopeless, and powerless.
The “blame the poor” perspective is stereotypic and not applicable to all of the underclass. Not only are most poor people able and willing to work hard, they do so when given the chance. The real trouble has to do with such problems as minimum wages and lack of access to the education necessary for obtaining a...