The main social issues highlighted in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying are poverty and the oppression of women.
Poverty is a social issue that is explored by virtue of the fact that all of the characters are very poor. Their lack of money and resources drives much of their action in the novel. For example, in Cora Tull's first point-of-view chapter, she obsesses over cakes she has made for someone who then changed her mind and no longer wanted to buy the cakes. Her narrative repeats her concern for "cost" and "saving," indicating that even a seemingly minor event like this is a major problem in people's lives when they are living in poverty and barely surviving. As her daughter Kate tells Cora, "'But those rich town ladies can change their minds. Poor folks can't'" (7).
The Bundren family is also poor, perhaps in an even worse state than the Tulls. Only some of the Bundrens can work and earn money. The patriarch, Anse, is useless and claims to be injured so that he cannot contribute to the family finances. Darl and Jewel must leave their dying mother's side for the opportunity to make "three dollars," which is a sum the family cannot pass on. When they family gets to town to bury Addie, the townsfolk can easily take advantage of them due to their lack of education. The way the characters speak also indicates their probable illiteracy due to their low status.
Speaking of Bundren characters being taken advantage of, Dewey Dell illustrates how easily women can be manipulated, especially women who are poor, uneducated, and desperate. She has become pregnant and wants an abortion; however, MacGowan takes advantage of her ignorance and, it is presumed, rapes her. Dewey Dell is now the only woman in the family; as soon as Addie dies, Dewey Dell is expected to take over all the "female" responsibilities. She is to go cook dinner only moments after witnessing her mother's death. She has no female relative to go to for advice about her pregnancy. She is going to be expected to basically raise Vardaman, her younger brother, in addition to her own child.
In Addie's point-of-view chapter, we also learn how incompatible she was with the expectations for women in her time and society. She has no real interest in marrying Anse and after having Cash, she doesn't have much interest in having other children. She says she felt Anse "had tricked [her]" through marrying her, claiming to love her, and impregnating her with Darl. Clearly, Addie is uncomfortable with expectations placed upon women to be wives and mothers in the early-twentieth-century American South.