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Poverty and Riches

Literature Review


It is not easy to define wealth and poverty, Kendall (2013) says, as it is necessary to influence different things. For instance, sociologists use World Bank and United Nations-collected secondary data. For example, the collected data analyzes various indicators of quality of life used for the measurement of wealth and poverty. The indicators cover health, sanitation, wealth, earnings, life expectancy, women's treatment and high-income, middle-income, and low-income education. Comparisons between high revenue and low income countries show that the rich and the poor are growing divisions. Measurement of poverty cannot be carried out by using income disparity factors only. Other ways through which poverty can be measured include; low education and skills, poor health and nutrition, bad housing conditions, social exclusions and inadequate livelihoods. A criterion was established by the United Nations Development Programme to measure the level of development of a nation using the Human Development Index. These include life expectancy, education and living standards. Kendall concludes that middle and low income nations are suffering from a number of issues such as poverty, hunger, food shortages and adverse increase in the number of populations (2013).

Additionally, Gillespie (2011) in his study indicated that, a Multidimensional Poverty Index was also used by United Nations to measure overlapping variations suffered by households in terms of health, education and living standards. Wealth in this case is normally defined as the value of all economic assets such as income, personal income and income-producing property. Poverty can be divided into two; absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is the situation in which people do not have the means to secure the most basic necessities in life and therefore may suffer from adverse conditions such as malnutrition and even death.  Relative poverty is defined as a situation in which people can afford the basic necessities of life but cannot be able to maintain a certain standard like other members of the society.

Description of the Population(s) that may be affected by the Social Problem

Gillespie (2011) indicated that race and ethnicity is one of the factors that is used to determine who are affected by the above social problem in places like the United States. In 2007, the wealth accumulated by the white family household was fifteen times more than the wealth accumulated by Latinos and African American families. The author showed that amassing wealth for African American ethnicities is difficult when compared to white families because the white generation had chances of accumulating wealth over the years and pass it down to their generations. According to the same authors, African Americans have had to experience racial discrimination in terms of inadequate schooling, low wages, and higher rates of certain types of crime. In the United States, the wealthiest members consist of economists, heirs and investors. The upper middle class economy is composed of people such as attorneys and physicians in general they are known as professionals, others include stockbrokers, business analysts and owners of small businesses. In this case, these people do not own any production means but have control over the production status of the economy. Those in middle class economy include those working white collar jobs, teachers, and medical technologists. 

There are also the working poor class who are composed of those working service jobs, lowest-paid operatives and clerical workers such as lawn mowers, waitresses and jobs that were mostly considered for immigrants. Chronically poor individuals are composed of individuals who are unemployed and children who are born in poor families. Single mothers and individuals who are unable to work due to age and disability are also in the bracket of chronically poor individuals. The poor people in the United States are women and children, especially children under the age of 18 years who account for about 35% of the poor people. Children under six years of age also fall in the age bracket of the poor in society. This agrees with the study on population as by Hunt (2004) which says that, children under six years who live in households headed by singe mothers account for about 54% of the poor population. Women account for about two third of the population living in poverty. Single parent families are also among the poor in the society because of the annual income they tend to receive. Women generally experience poverty at a higher rate than men which is known as feminiztion of poverty.

Contributing or underlying issues of Wealth and Poverty

Hunt (2004) investigated how wealth and poverty can be described in individualistic, cultural or structural terms. In his perspective, individualistic views about these social problems comprise of attitudinal and motivational factors that either cause an individual to be wealthy or poor. United States is defined as a land of opportunity and therefore attitudinal and motivational factors blame people who do not take advantage of these opportunities as having themselves to blame for the been poor. The author further says that blamed cultural factors as some of the contributing factors of wealth and poverty. Structural level of poverty focus on factors that an individual is not able to change such as changes in the economy that alter the employment opportunities for people, one such example is the Great Recession that occurred in the United States in 2007. Hunt (2004) concluded that, the capitalist system that suggests that the rich get richer while the poor get poorer is another explanation for structural factors contributing to poverty.

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American Community Survey (ACS): Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). (2006). ICPSR Data Holdings.

Gillespie, M. D. (2011). Capital Accumulation and Family Economic Deterioration: Historical Contingencies and the" Great Recession" of the United States. World Review of Political Economy, 2(3), 406.

Hunt, M. O. (2004). Race/ethnicity and beliefs about wealth and poverty. Social Science Quarterly, 85(3), 827-853.

Kendall, D. (2013). Wealth and Poverty: Social Problems in a Diverse Society Edition. Allyn and Bacon. Boston.

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