Monday, May 17, 2010

Student is interested in poverty.

Here is a reaction essay a student wrote to review what she had been learning about poverty in some class readings.

Second Reaction Essay

I am very interested in poverty and how to help it, but even more importantly how to prevent it, or help people get away from it. I enjoyed the section we did on poverty and the rates we looked at over time.

From the websites we looked at, the poverty rate in 2006 was 12.3%, which was 36.5 million people (it's up around 13.5% or higher now with the Great Recession). It was interesting how ethnicity seemed to show a trend in poverty. For whites, the poverty rate was 8.2%. For African Americans, the rate was 24.3%. For Asians, the rate was 10.3%. The rates for different ages was also important to notice. For people under 18 years old, the poverty rate was 17.4% equaling 12.8 million people. For people over 18 years old, the poverty rate was 10.8%, so it was lower, but that came out to be 20.2 million people (there are lot more people over 18). The poverty rate for people over age 65 has decreased; it’s under 10%.

Dependency and recipiency was also looked at. On a broad view over time, both dependency and recipiency rates were high in the early to mid 90's and then decreased through 2000. The rates increased again after 2000. Between 1993 and 2004, recipiency rates were: for whites, 8-10%, for African Americans, 26-38%, for Hispanics, 21-34%. The rates continued to go up for all the races, whites being the lowest and African Americans being the highest. For dependency rates, whites ranged from 1.8-3%, African Americans ranged from 8.8-17.8%, and Hispanics ranged from 4.5-11.8%.

More than 50% of single mothers experience poverty for at least one month in a years time. There are many reasons why the mothers face this. One reason single mothers face poverty is because the father doesn't help them with bills and the children, so they are on their own. Childcare is so expensive, that it almost doesn't pay to put them in daycare while at work. Another problem with women trying to support themselves and children on their own is that women only make $0.77 for every $1.00 a man makes on average. Women are typically underpaid for the jobs they can do, because society expects the men to pay the bills. Unfortunately, no one is thinking about the women who are on their own.

There was a group of single mothers who were tracked over a two year period. It was shown that 28% of poor single women receiving welfare (TANF) are poverty leavers, meaning after being in poverty once, they never return to poverty, or at least not for several years. This study showed that 56% of the same female TANF-receiving population are poverty cyclers, meaning they cycle in and out of poverty, maybe out of poverty for a year or some months and then falling back into poverty for a year or some months. The last segment of the poor single TANF-receiving population was poverty returners, and 16% of the these single women stay poor. This last category of long-term poverty-stricken women is generally afflicted with chronic health or mental health problems, although a small fraction of this group must include the notorious welfare cheaters who prefer to collect welfare benefits when they could be working. Still, it’s clear from this study that most people who receive welfare such as TANF are not experiencing steady long-term dependency, and for the fraction that does experience this, only a very small part could be cheating. (see Economic Patterns of Single Mothers Following Their Poverty Exits at for the original 2007 study).

Mark Rank made an interesting statement when he said that between the age of 20-65, two out of five people would use some kind of welfare program. For some people who don't agree with welfare because they think it is abused and a waste of money, I know they would want it if they were in the same situation. I believe it was Mark who said that 58% of Americans would experience poverty. For more than half of Americans to experience poverty, I would think that there would be a lot more people helping out when they can. However, people don't expect that something may happen and send them into poverty, so they don't take preventative measures. There was one myth that I know I have heard before and I believe it is a statement that comes from a lot of people and that is that women on welfare have more kids. It is actually a false statement, and women on welfare have lower birthrates than women not in poverty (when you control for age, as women on welfare tend to be younger, so they are more likely to have children compared to all women of all ages, but less likely to have children than women of the same age who aren’t on welfare). Also, despite the previously reported percentages of welfare use and dependency by race or ethnicity, Mark says the 2 out of 3 people who receive welfare are white. This is true of total numbers because the great majority (about two-thirds) of Americans are white with no Hispanic ethnicity, so even with the lower rates I saw earlier on a different website, with whites being the least likely to be using or dependent upon welfare, there is still a greater total number of whites on welfare.

Another interesting number is that one out of four people in poverty had parents who were on welfare. Generational poverty is one thing that could be prevented with the right education. I suppose that would eliminate 25% of the poverty number.

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