What is the ideal way to view people in poverty? Should these people be categorized when creating programs to combat poverty?

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The United States has long categorized Americans living in poverty as just that: poverty.  It is a institutionalized reference for those whose annual incomes are below a specified threshold.  During the early 1960s, as President Lyndon Johnson sought to declare a “war on poverty,” economists in and out of government began looking at ways to quantify the number of poor in the United States for the purpose of targeting social welfare programs towards those most in need.  One of those economists, Mollie Orshansky, who was working in the Office of Research and Statistics in the Social Security Administration, developed what came to be called the “Orshansky Poverty Threshold.”  Specifically, that threshold is used to determine an amount of income below which families are unable to meet their basic needs.  Those are the families for whom programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and for whom welfare is the targeted demographic.  Attached below is a link to the U.S. Government’s “Family Poverty Guidelines,” which utilizes the most recent census data to regularly update the figures used in determining poverty rates for single individuals as well as for families of seven to eight children, depending upon the number of parents in the home.

In addition to the aforementioned link to the federal government’s poverty guidelines, there is also a link below to the U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Census Bureau official history of the development of guidelines and thresholds for determining poverty levels in the United States.

In short, those who live in poverty are considered a category of citizen, and are the demographic for which social welfare programs are targeted.

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tyler-k's profile pic

tyler-k | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

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When dealing with people living in poverty, it is most important to remember that they live a life far more difficult than others. Based on a purely demographical view, they typically have to deal with a great deal of violence and racism. But at the end of the day, they still deserve the same treatment as any other human being when it comes to education and politics, which is not entirely equal for people living in poverty in today's society. 

When trying to combat poverty, I do not believe it is necessary to categorize types of poverty. Poverty is poverty, and anyone who needs help should get it. If they begin to be placed into categories based on level of poverty, certain groups may end up being over looked or left out.

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