The Nature Of Poverty

Submitted By xNihilo
Words: 932
Pages: 4

The number of Americans families subsisting below the poverty line is a polarizing issue, and partisan opinions about how this problem should be dealt with vary greatly. Right-wing ideology states that the poor should be helped solely by private charity and that poverty is largely a personal problem, whereas the more egalitarian liberals are largely of the opinion that it is the moral obligation of our government to provide for the less fortunate and that poverty is a social ill. To determine which of these views has the most merit, we will delve into what the field of sociology has discovered about the nature of poverty and what is to be done about it. Right-wing opinions on poverty are reminiscent of the functionalist views that social stratification is good for a society. Functionalists believe that the fact that certain jobs pay good money acts as an incentive for people to acquire the high level of education needed to secure such occupations, and so social Darwinism works by ensuring that only those with the highest work ethic, intelligence and perseverance get these jobs. I believe that this is dismissive of the fact that this high level of education can be extremely difficult to achieve for those with merit simply because they lack the economic resources to pay for their schooling. The “culture of poverty” argument, widespread among the general populace and dismissed among sociologists, assumes the Republican stance of blaming those who are poor for their state of impoverishment, attributing their poverty to irresponsibility and an absence of work ethic. The evidence contradicts such a mindset. Time and time again, studies have found that the jobless welfare queen is largely a figure of myth, a straw man constructed by GOP ideologues to bear the brunt of their intolerance. Most of the able-bodied poor do work, and those who come off of welfare and get a job often find that their wages are not sufficient to secure a livelihood. Those who harbor left-wing beliefs are likely to agree with what conflict theory has to say about poverty. Conflict theorists argue that social stratification is harmful because it is to the benefit of the rich (who will usually act solely out of selfish interests) and the detriment of the poor. They dismiss the social Darwinism of functionalists in the belief that there are often barriers preventing qualified individuals from ascending the hierarchy. Sociological inquiry has found that poverty is a societal ill rather than a personal problem. From a sociological standpoint, poverty in the US is the result of widespread societal and economic dynamics. While most sociologists are careful not to attribute the prevalence of poverty to any one phenomenon, they posit three principal causes of impoverishment: the restructuring of the economy, the status of women in the family and the job market, and diminished social support for the poor. The restructuring of the economy has brought about the virtual disappearance of manufacturing jobs, once a common field of work for minorities and the poor who cannot necessarily afford the education necessary for higher-level occupations. Economic decline in those sectors of the job market where men traditionally received enough pay to support a family has made it necessary for many households to subsist on two incomes. The bulk of the new positions that are available offer low wages and few benefits such as healthcare, and are largely filled by women. Minorities and single mothers comprise most of America’s poor. The latter are extremely likely to fall into poverty, because women are paid lower wages than men