Barriers of Poverty, page 3
12. Racial /Cultural Factors
11. Criminal Record
In 2008, 1 in every 31 adults in the U.S. was either on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole,27 the highest rate in the world.28 Incarceration reduces former inmates’ earnings by 40 percent and limits their future economic mobility.29 One recent study shows that “imprisonment diminishes the earnings of adult men, compromises their health, reduces familial resources, contributes to family breakup, and adds to the deficits of poor children.”30 Although offenders are often said to have “done their time”, the consequences of crime can continue for a lifetime.
Poverty among some minority groups is significantly greater than poverty in the general populations. Poverty among young black children in rural areas is 55.8% (45.3% in urban areas) and among young Hispanics in rural areas is 40.4% (37.3%in urban areas).31 As the children grow up in the same poor neighborhoods and regions, the issues of poverty perpetuate to the next generation. This is particularly true for the nation’s Native population. Native Americans are often isolated both geographically and culturally, creating a population that is the poorest in the country.32 Nearly one in three Native Americans are living in poverty, twice that of the general U.S. population.33
13. Inadequate Assets/Asset Traps
Income, savings, and assets help a family move towards—and sustain—self-sufficiency and economic security by providing a cushion against unexpected changes and setbacks. Assets can make a significant difference to a low-income family -- whether they are intellectual assets like education or training, or physical assets like a home, a savings account, an automobile or a small business.34 But many federal and state policies actually work against the accumulation of assets that could keep families teetering on the brink of poverty from falling into the economic abyss. Too often, individuals and families “teetering on the brink” must give up what meager assets they may have, such as income, a vehicle, a home or a job, before they can qualify for assistance that might otherwise stabilize them and allow them to begin the slow process of economic recovery.
People in poverty face any combination of these barriers, and more. This paper does not even touch on the impact of catastrophic life events—usually medical or unforeseeable loss of employment or retirement savings—which can plunge a previously economically secure family into poverty overnight. Nor does it touch on the difficult decision faced by victims of domestic violence who must sometimes choose between economic security and physical safety.
And even those who manage to earn enough to rise above the officially designated poverty line, often struggle with these same issues. While about 1 in 9 in Central Oregonians live below the official poverty line of $22,050 for a family four, nearly twice that many live below the 200 percent level and struggle each and every day with the potential of being hurled below the line by circumstances often beyond their control.
Poverty does not simply affect those suffering from it. Its outcomes affect us all. In the immediate term, it lowers our income tax base, increases our commitments to social services, increases our insurance costs, and strains our nonprofits that are in the trenches helping our neighbors.
In the long term, the cycle of poverty can be callously reinforcing. Those with low education or skills are likely to earn low wages. Those with low wages are less likely to work, less likely to have insurance or a savings cushion, and more likely to be enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
So what can you do about it?
RE-EXAMINE – your feelings and assumptions
LEARN – more about the issues
GIVE – to organizations making a difference
VOLUNTEER – to help those who need our help
SPEAK UP – for those who can’t speak for themselves
We know what creates poverty. We have the chance to break the cycle: Let’s not leave the issue of poverty to yet another generation.