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Generational Poverty

In: Social Issues

Submitted By dweeks
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The most important factor in overcoming generational poverty is changing the stigma associated with it. Many people assume that if someone is experiencing poverty it is because they are not working hard enough and are lazy. This could not be further from the truth because if you look at the statistics, the majority of those suffering from generational poverty are some of the most hard working people ever and that is because that is often all they know, the only thing they know how to do to survive. The thing about poverty is that it is not something one desires and specifically with generational poverty, it is much more difficult to overcome then people think and is more associated with the society we live in then with the actual person or family experiencing it. The main reason it is so difficult to overcome generational poverty is because the education in these impoverished communities is significantly lacking. If you look at the distribution of finances in this country it is clear as day that the money is distributed to the wealthy communities first because they are the ones that contribute to the economy of a certain area the most and in order to make those communities desirable, they need to have good schools, jobs, etc. Often it is not the teachers that are the problem in these schools, it is the limited resources they have to work with and if a community doesn’t value the education of the youth, the youth are not going to value education, which leads to the increase in dropout rates in impoverished communities. These rates go up significantly when a child is from a single-parent home as the children often feel as though they need to pull their weight within these homes and when this lifestyle is generational the family lacks the understanding of the importance of education, which can add to the pressures of needing to make money rather than going to school. Impoverished communities are also prime targets for drug sales as when faced with the stress of intergenerational poverty these individuals often turn to drugs as a way to cope. And within the communities, if you see your family struggle financially and see the drug distributors flashing expensive cars and jewelry, one is more likely to become involved in illegal activity. The issue of illegal activity only increases when you continue to take into account single-parent households because often single-parent needs to work multiple jobs, not neccesarily to make ends meat, but just to put food on the table. When a single-parent is working multiple jobs, that means that their child or children is left unattended because their ability to pay for childcare is not there. When a child is left unattended they are going to be exposed to more possible dangerous activities because generally these are the ones those involved in illegal activity target to increase their “employees.” I was raised by my father who was on disability for most of my life, so he was usually around, but I remember being young and we would always go to the friend’s house where his or her parent or parents were not there because they were working and that is where we would all get into trouble, not significant trouble, but we were also growing up in rural Vermont. Vermont was pretty idealistic back then, but over the past several years has gotten more and more risky. I would drive home from work and see lots of young children walking the streets with people I knew they should not be associating with. Recently there was a shooting in the town I worked in and two of the people involved in it were teenagers. They were also children that were involved in the system, mostly because of generational poverty and little supervision. I had worked with one in the group home I used to work in and his mother cared for him, but was unable to provide him with the level of supervision he needed and he, who had watched his mother struggle financially for his whole life, saw an opportunity to make money by becoming involved with big time drug dealers that came from the city and the coaxed him into stealing a family members gun and being involved in the shooting. Not only did he want to make money he also wanted to feel like he belonged and these people targeted him because of it. It is also common for those experiencing intergenerational poverty to have limited access to services, which makes it difficult to receive the financial, medical, and mental services one might need to improve their quality of life. In bigger cities there tends to be more access to public transportation, but at the same time their access to quality care is limited. I recently moved from Vermont to Arizona and have worked with many clients in Vermont that come from generational poverty, but the difference between the area I lived in Vermont and the area I live in Arizona, the impoverished communities in Vermont are much more isolated because Vermont is a relatively isolated state to begin with. Most families experiencing this level of poverty did not have their own cars and there was limited access to public transportation and without that one remains isolated and without the care they need. I have noticed since moving to the area I live in Arizona, that public transportation is more accessible, but that these communities still remain relatively isolated and lack the ability to access the quality of care one could access in wealthier communities. In regards to mental health, the facilities set up to treat these clients lack the means to help them in the degree in which they need. I recently when for a job interview in Arizona and waited in the main waiting area for the agency. The waiting area was filled with clients awaiting bus passes so they could get where they needed to go and they were told there was a lack of available bus passes for the majority of the clients and the clients became very upset and for good reason. Though the providers were not at fault how could one not become upset when their ability to access what they need is not there and within a culture who has felt devalued for most likely their entire lives, the anger they feel is well warranted. The majority of the clients in the waiting room were also homeless and uneducated and because of this are unlikely to find employment, especially within a community that gainful employment is limited or at times non-existent. Minimum wage is not enough to assure that all needs of the person are met, especially considering those working often have families that they need to take care of. Minimum wage is something that has begun to improve in some states, but it still has a ways to go to become a livable wage. The issue of this is not something that lies entirely within the states, but within the companies. Most of the companies those making minimum wage are working for are also some of the biggest and richest companies in the United States. For example, Walmart is the largest retailer in the United States, making $405 billion a year. If Walmart was its own country it would rank 19th in world based on its economy. The average hourly pay for an employee at Walmart is $8.81 an hour which equals a yearly salary of $15,576 a year, 16% below the 2011 federal poverty line for a family of three. These facts are especially staggering when you take into consideration that the top six Walmart executives made $59 million their last fiscal year and the six members of the Walton family, who own just 50% of the company are worth $100 billion. Walmart has stated in order to raise minimum wage they would have to pass the cost to the customer, why I am not sure, but even if they did it would only cost and average of $0.46 per trip, per customer if they raised it to $12. That is a price I know I would be willing to pay as someone classified as middle class. I probably lose about that much money, over time in my purse or in my car. Walmart is not the only company with similar statistics, but yet so many wonder why poverty in the United States is such an issue. The distribution of wealth in this country is disgusting, the wealthiest 25% own 87% of the wealth in the United States, which was $54.2 trillion in 2009. This is a huge issue in the United States and one we cannot continue to ignore. I do not have a definite solution to this problem, but we have plenty of places we can start because it is something that will only continue to get worse if something is not done. It can begin with increasing the level of education in impoverished communities and can also begin with a government mandated increase in minimum wage, in which the companies are responsible for, not neccesarily all companies because they might not have the finances to do so, but we can start with Walmart and go from there. I have always had a pretty open mind in regards to all the clients I have worked with and am going to work with. Working in the substance abuse field has basically required that as in the community I began working in and most communities, substance abusers were viewed as the bottom of the barrel. Most of the clients I worked with came from impoverished communities and those with little cultural compentency would often refer to these clients as scum because of the issues they dealt with associated with generational poverty. Moving to the area in which I live in Arizona is only going to increase my cultural compentency because of the cultures I will now be working with and guaranteed the effects of generational poverty are even more prevalent because of the size of the communities in this area. I am looking forward to continue my work here because I feel as though I have the empathy necessary for working with this demographic because I know that no one chooses to struggle and often the negative behaviors associated with this demographic are merely ways in which they have learned to cope with the issues they have dealt with and the only way to help them is by showing them care and understanding.

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