Homework Help

What social factors, not individual factors, may contribute to the poverty of employed...

user profile pic

mskitty43 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) Honors

Posted January 24, 2011 at 6:55 AM via web

dislike 1 like
What social factors, not individual factors, may contribute to the poverty of employed persons?

Think structurally about poverty

9 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 24, 2011 at 7:12 AM (Answer #2)

dislike 0 like

If a person has a full-time job but is still poor, then there are a variety of social factors that you can blame for the situation. (I am not arguing for these points of view, just laying them out...)

First, the person may be poor because our capitalist system and our excessively conservative government allow firms to pay people a wage that cannot keep them out of poverty.  This is the point of view that leads to things like increases in the minimum wage.  This school of thought believes that a full-time job ought to pay a wage that will keep a person (or family) out of poverty.  It holds that the government should not allow jobs to pay less.

Second, the person may simply not have enough education or skills.  In our system, low paid jobs tend to go to those who have not gotten as much in the way of skills or education as those who get the higher paying jobs.  A lack of education or skills could be an individual factor, but it could also come from shortcomings in our educational system.

Third, there may be discrimination that is holding the person back.  This argument is particularly made in the case of people of color.  The idea is that people of color are not given the same kind of opportunities as whites because of prejudice.  A "softer" version of this might hold that people of color are shut out of the "old boys network" that helps to give access to the better jobs.

All of these are social factors that some people would advance to explain employed people who are in poverty.

 

user profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted January 26, 2011 at 3:28 PM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

In our current economy it is very possible to be employed but still live in poverty. As far as the social factors that attribute to this I would say one is education or a lack of education. Those with more education generally earn more than those that are less educated.

user profile pic

Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 26, 2011 at 4:00 PM (Answer #4)

dislike 0 like

Assuming that a person is working at a low-paying job, there are factors beyond that circumstance that do contribute to the presence of the working poor in our society. One is the lack of affordable child care for many working parents. An income can be "eaten up" by the cost of child care, leaving much less to support a family. Another factor is the lack of public transportation in many, if not most, smaller American communities. Having to maintain a car in order to get to work creates many additional expenses that further drain limited financial resources.

user profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 27, 2011 at 4:44 PM (Answer #5)

dislike 0 like

There is also an underlying social acceptance of poverty as somehow bring the fault of the person who is poor.  Complementing this popular viewpoint is the idea that the only thing keeping people in poverty is a poor work ethic or lack of persistence.  The overall dismissal of educational and racial inequalities in our society as somehow being nonexistent perpetuates and reinforces them.

user profile pic

tradecraft | College Teacher | (Level 2) Honors

Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:15 AM (Answer #6)

dislike 0 like

If a person has a full-time job but is still poor, then there are a variety of social factors that you can blame for the situation. (I am not arguing for these points of view, just laying them out...)

First, the person may be poor because our capitalist system and our excessively conservative government allow firms to pay people a wage that cannot keep them out of poverty.  This is the point of view that leads to things like increases in the minimum wage.  This school of thought believes that a full-time job ought to pay a wage that will keep a person (or family) out of poverty.  It holds that the government should not allow jobs to pay less.

Second, the person may simply not have enough education or skills.  In our system, low paid jobs tend to go to those who have not gotten as much in the way of skills or education as those who get the higher paying jobs.  A lack of education or skills could be an individual factor, but it could also come from shortcomings in our educational system.

Third, there may be discrimination that is holding the person back.  This argument is particularly made in the case of people of color.  The idea is that people of color are not given the same kind of opportunities as whites because of prejudice.  A "softer" version of this might hold that people of color are shut out of the "old boys network" that helps to give access to the better jobs.

All of these are social factors that some people would advance to explain employed people who are in poverty.

 

In response to your first comment of: the person may be poor because our capitalist system and our excessively conservative government allow firms to pay people a wage that cannot keep them out of poverty. 

I would ask you then to explain poverty when liberals have been in office?

As to wages, the "FREE MARKET ECONOMY" determines salary not a political party per say. To place blame on the "capitalist system" or "excessively conservative government" is ignorant and uneducated. How many socialist or communist systems are paying decent wages that prevent poverty? Let us never forget that America's capitalist system provides more opportunities for people to be successful than any other place in the world! I do not see immigration problems where people are trying to illegally sneak into Mexico, Russia, China, Iran, Brazil, etc.

user profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 31, 2011 at 3:00 PM (Answer #7)

dislike 0 like

It is important to analyse poverty in this regard and consider how it is multi-relational. It is likely that an unemployed person is going to be from a certain class, which is likely to be the working class, or even the under class. Such people are part of this class partly because of a low level of education and lack of qualifications. Also, you are less likely to find a job statistically the longer you have been unemployed, as it becomes increasingly hard to explain away big gaps in your work history. In addition, unfortunately research ha shown that certain types of people are less successful in getting jobs than others (women, immigrants etc).

user profile pic

megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted January 31, 2011 at 4:21 PM (Answer #8)

dislike 0 like

The minimum wage is just that, extremely minimum. Perhaps enough to keep a person from being completely homeless, but not enough for adequate insurance, adequate healthcare, childcare, sustainable transportation, savings, paying for college, building a strong credit history etc.

However, the person may make too much to be able to receive public assistance to give them a boost. It can be a trap that millions of people find themselves in.

And not just minimum wage, but the many many jobs that require a degree but still pay slightly above minimum wage (private school teaching in my area for example). I do believe the government/capitalism and large corporations bare some responsibility in how billions of dollars are being made on the backs of the working poor, and the work they do is important to the functioning of society yet the people will always make an extremely low wage.

Another issue is affording a higher education. College education is extremely expensive, and that once again makes it very difficult for poor people to afford it without having to resort to student loans, which in turn cause more problems as the cost of higher education has risen.

user profile pic

kapokkid | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 4, 2011 at 5:13 AM (Answer #9)

dislike 0 like

In response to #6, you should take some time to read about the way that incomes have changed in the United States.  Particularly in the last thirty to forty years, there certainly have been plenty of opportunities for people to earn money, mostly for the top 1% and the top .1% as most of the income trends have pushed that way unceasingly through recession and boom times.

The United States is now reaching income inequality shared by many third world and underdeveloped nations, clearly a place where opportunity exists for everyone...

As the de-regulation continues to gather steam, as college educations grow in price at a staggering rate, as the rich get richer and everyone else stands still or falls backwards, you are right...  opportunity abounds.  Of course this is true if you are starting at the top of the heap.

user profile pic

litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 6, 2011 at 12:04 PM (Answer #10)

dislike 0 like

There are many ways in which the system perpetuates poverty.  For example, think about what it takes to get a job.  You need an education and skills.  Where do you get those?  If you are poor, you probably did not go to functioning schools where you had access to a good solid education.  Now that you are an adult, you are even less likely to acquire this education and skills. 

Second, you need to look nice.  You need to be clean, well-groomed and with nice looking clothes and a car to get you to the interview.  You also need the skills and resources to create a nice resume and submit it.  If you are poor, where will you get these?

Finally, let's say you do manage to get the job.  Now you have to keep it!  How do you do that when you are homeless and don't have a place to shower each day or you only own the one suit you went to the interview in.  You have to take the bus to get to work, and it takes money even to go by bus.  You won't get paid for a week, or more likely two weeks or a month.  Once you get that money, it needs to go for clothes, food, grooming and with enough left over to pay for food.

That is why poverty is structually perpetuated.

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes