Poverty and Children in the United States

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Discussing the issue of the present day chronic cycle of poverty, it would be relevant to mention that children might be regarded as the most unprotected social group that suffers form the above mentioned problem. There are certain events that lead to this cycle; namely: multidisciplinary, ranging from declining family institutions, to the deplorable economic conditions. If not adequately addressed, this situation has the potential of endangering the lives of more than 20 million children over the United States, putting them at risk of malnutrition, ill health and reduced concentration in class. When families cannot adequately afford to provide the basic human requirements of food, clothing shelter, health care and education, the lives of their members are put at a great risk (Smith, 1998).

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Another issue that causes cycle of poverty is the rising number of single parent households that cannot adequately support their families, particularly their children, in terms of life’s basic requirements. While analyzing the problem of poverty-struck children in the United States today, it is necessary to take into consideration the following issues: the lack of adequate education by the parents, increased levels of promiscuity and, as a result of this, giving birth to illegitimate children, dependence on handouts. Thus, the improved level of education might be considered as the best approach to break the poverty cycle.

Following this, it is necessary to say that poverty rates among the Black American children have been recorded as the highest in recent years. Furthermore, various surveys showed that the poorest children were found among the rural areas. Children’s poverty in the United States today might be also explained by the low income of the parents.

Consequently, this causes households’ children suffering. Family is not able to provide adequate food for children. Most of the time, this food is lacking in nutrition qualities (Linver et al, 2002). Poverty is primarily due to the failed social institutions in the United States, with children caught up in between as the innocent victims. Stable family relationships might be regarded as a key to ensuring that children are protected from poverty.

With the regard to the above mentioned thesis, it might be pointed out that the divorce of the parents causes social and emotional problems children and them; it leaves parents with no time to cater for the needs of their children. Also, divorces may minimize family’s ability to get a decent housing. Consequently, they end up living in a poor neighborhood that does not motivate children to continue their education. Such neighborhoods also lead children to violence, drug abuse, early pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. In the given circumstances black poor children may also suffer from racism against them. These causes those children feel inadequate in everything, and erode away the very purpose of living.

The above mentioned problems lead to the establishment of local gangs formed by those children with the view to identify themselves. Another problem within this context is that due to the breakage of family unity, some parents may turn abusive to their children, and this could have serious consequences in their school performance (Smith, 1998). That is why most of these children will turn to drugs and sex as a form of solace. In the end, child pregnancies rise, and the poverty cycle starts all over again, as these poor children can not provide their own babies with necessary goods and attention.

Another issue that rises within the context of the given problem lays in the fact that children of immigrant parents in the United States have been shown to be more implicated in poverty when compared with those whose parents were born and raised here; their economic spending power is relatively low in comparison to that of the average American (Iceland & Bauman, 2007).

Following this it is necessary to point out that the issue which encourages poverty in America greatly is unemployment and, thus, inability to apply to welfare services for the provision of basic needs. Government rarely subsidizes those poor families and provides welfare services with funds; and this causes such unprotected social group to suffer.

Continuing, when education institutions are not adequately funded, the education quality suffers greatly. Thus, after graduating, children may not be able to compete with others in the job markets, and may have to settle for low paying jobs. These will cause the iteration of the chronic cycle of poverty.

Due to the hardships that such children undergo through everyday, suicide thoughts are never far from their minds. They find suicide as the most probable solution to the feelings of being unloved and unwanted. Poor parents may also not have enough money left to save for their children’s future.

The poor families are daily concerned about how to provide food on the table for the day, thus, any thoughts of their children’s future never cross their minds. The life of the child who is caught up in the cycle of poverty will depend to a large extent on the level of poverty that the child is faced with. From an early life, the child has to start learning how to live with economic dependency, such as the issuance of food stamps. This causes child’s low self esteem, thus, it becomes increasingly difficult to embrace a positive attitude towards life (Smith, 1998).

Numerous studies that have previously been carried out have repeatedly shown that children from poverty-stricken households are more likely to get involved in crime, compared to those from the well-to-do households. One of the impacts that poverty has on poor American children is concerns their health. Children from poor family backgrounds are more likely to suffer from diminished physical health.

Mothers who do not have access to adequate nutrition and health services are more likely to give birth to low birth weight children. In return, these children are at a predisposed risk of suffering not only from poor health, but also to have flawed cognitive development. This has the implication that such children may suffer from learning disabilities, and be unproductive in later life.

Furthermore, low birth weight children have higher infant mortality rates. In terms of income levels, studies have revealed that most low birth weight babies are born of poor mothers who have a low level of income (Hughes, 2003).

Poverty is also more likely to drive young girls to early pregnancies, which might cause low birth weight of babies. Children who live below the poverty line have been shown to score low IQ tests over time. This is a clear indication of the adverse effect that poverty has on their cognitive development.

Poverty is also a limitation to what children can achieve in school. It contributes to low grades as poor children are likely to drop out of school early in life, compared with children from well to do families.

In terms of behavior and emotional outbursts, poor children are more likely to suffer from aggression outbursts. They are more predisposed to be engaged in acts of violence such as fights. There is a high relationship between emotional behavior and school outcome, as more aggressive children are more likely to have strained relationships with their teachers and peers, as a result of their inability to be cooperative.

In terms of nutritional status, children born in poor families have a higher risk to suffer from malnutrition. This is because the family is not able to provide a balanced diet for the children. Thus, the children are most likely to be fed on a diet deficient of proteins, vitamins and micro nutrients. There is a link between malnutrition and poverty, which results to the undernourishment of children and the stunt in their growth (Linver et al, 2002).

Consequently, these malnourished children suffer from a wide range of health problems, with a resultant effect on their abilities to learn. However, findings also reveal facts that children from poor families are also becoming increasingly obese. The explanation to this could be related to the mushrooming of fast food restaurants all over the country (Hughes, 2003).

Meals in fast food joints are more affordable, even for poor children. Such foods are normally high in energy, but low in nutrients. Thus, it means that the continued consumption of these will result in a deficiency of vital nutrients (Iceland & Bauman, 2007).

As a result, there is a high risk of suffering from health complications such as cardiovascular diseases. Besides leading to poor health, consumption of foods from fast food joints is a basic cause of environmental degradation, owing to the food packages that may be littered around the neighborhood. This causes the environment’s pollution and the inhabitants of such an environment are getting frequent illnesses, further putting a strain to the national health scheme.

Most deaths due to poor health have been reported from among the urban poor children, in comparison to their rich counterparts. This is because their parents are not able to provide children with medical insurance and, thus, those children can not get decent health care. Most diseases such as asthma and diabetes which requires management, are too taxing for the poor to be bale to afford the purchase of drugs (Smith, 1998). Consequently, the victims are for ever facing death in the eye, not forgetting the psychological trauma that they undergo daily. Education and health status have a synergistic connection about themselves.

Children who are healthier are also likely to achieve higher education standards in the long term. When a child is enjoying excellent health status, he or she is more likely to not only be retained in the education system, but also attain high levels of education (Iceland & Bauman, 2007). As a result, such child will have a chance to obtain well paying jobs in future. In terms of education quality, children from poor families are likely to miss out in high quality education that may be offered by institutions of learning which could be out of their reach.

Poverty may also play a part in as far as school enrollment is concerned (Linver et al, 2002). With the ever increasing number of children applying for admissions in institutions of high learning, competition is now at an all time high, so that only the best are able to land places in the credible institutions. Those who are left out, have to apply for private institutions that, normally, charge exorbitant fees. Clearly, these will be out of reach to poor children and unless they are lucky to get scholarships, their education future will already be in jeopardy.

As a result, such category of children can not compete for well paying jobs in both the public and private sectors, and so they have to settle for the low paying jobs. Their standards of living will more or less stagnate, and when they become parents, they may not afford to give their children the kind of life that they would wish (Hughes, 2003).

After discussing, describing and analyzing all of the above mentioned materials and information, it might be concluded that in order to be able to solve the issue of child poverty in America, it is important to strengthen economic institutions with the view to create more jobs places. When people are able to earn a decent living, they are able to be empowered not only economically, but also socially. The government should also try to commit more funds to the sustenance of welfare institutions, so that more children may benefit. The strengthening of health care facilities will also mean that health services will be affordable and available to these children.

The issue of helping the poor to access affordable health insurance should also not be overlooked, as well as measures that are geared towards ensuring that the family unit is strengthened. The ability to benefit from quality and affordable education should also apply to all, as education can be regarded as one of the most realistic ways of breaking the poverty cycle.

The provision of security and building of decent housing units should be the central role of the government. Indeed, the fight against poverty should be the sole yardstick to ensure that future generations would be able to provide the basic necessities for both themselves and their children.

Poverty may be the leading cause for the inability of children to achieve the American dream. As long as the economic conditions of their parents are not addressed, along with helping to restore the family unit which is in disarray, the today American child would continue to be subjected to such consequences as malnutrition, lack of access to quality education, low paying jobs, and a continued disparity between the rich and the poor.


Poverty means that children, born from such settings, would most likely be underweight, with a consequent effect on their cognitive development. This means that they would not be able to perform well at school. Poor neighborhoods might be regarded as certain dens for drug abuse, immorality and increased crime levels. Following this, it might be suggested that by empowering parents economically, the ripple effect would lead to a breakage of the vicious cycle of poverty.


Hughes, D.C. (2003). Reducing health disparities among children. The future of children, 13 (1), 53- 167.

Iceland, J., & Bauman, K.J. (2007). Income, poverty and material hardships: how strong is the association. Journal of socio-economics, 36, 376- 396.

Linver, M.R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Kohen, D.E. (2002). Family processes as pathways for income to young children’s development. Journal of development psychology, 38, 719- 734.

Smith, J.P. (1998). Socio – economic status and health. American economic review, 88, 192- 196.

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