It seems to me…
“By providing students in our Nation with such an education, we help save our children from the clutches of poverty, crime, drugs, and hopelessness, and we help safeguard our Nation’s prosperity for generations yet unborn.” ~ Elijah Cummings.
The U.S. does relatively little to aid the very poor and we have serious economic, political, and moral problems[i] in this area. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the association of the world’s developed economies, which calculates the percentage of people who earn less than half of the country’s median wage, the number considered poor in the U.S. is actually 17.3 percent.
We rank 31st of the 34 countries that make up the OECD in terms of the percentage of our population that qualifies as poor. Of the 34 member states, only Mexico, Chile, and Israel fair worse. The percentage for the UK (11 percent), Germany (8.9 percent), and France (7.2 percent) are all much lower. The OECD average for all nations is 11 percent.
The U.S. also comes off far worse than other developed countries for the percentage of children in poverty at 20.6 percent. A Brooking Institution study concluded that anyone that graduates from high school, does not have children out of marriage, and is employed has a relatively low probability of falling into poverty. Children that grow up in poverty, however, are more likely to drop out of high school, be unemployed, use drugs, have children out-of-wedlock, and suffer from health problems and become unproductive members of society costing taxpayers more over the course of their lives. While some social conservatives have seized on this statistic to recommend government-directed encouragement of marriage as a method to reduce poverty, the problem is not that simple.
Out-of-wedlock births account for almost 70 percent of births to high school dropouts; 51 percent of births to high school graduates; 34 percent for those with some college; and just 8 percent for those with a college degree. 73 percent of births to African-Americans; 53 percent Among Latinos; and 29 percent to European-Americans are out-of-wedlock. Out-of-wedlock births are directly related to social class. The poverty rate for single-parent families is six times higher than for married families[ii].
Infant mortality rate; the percentage of infants that die within the first year of life is considered a key indicator of the level of health in a country. In the U.S., the rate is at about six deaths for every 1,000 live births but the UK, Australia, Germany, France and Japan all do much better. Japan‘s rate is less than half ours. Malnutrition and poor childhood health care result in a lifetime of poor health and high healthcare costs but many mothers in the U.S. do not have access to prenatal care.
The poor also are an education problem: only 77 percent of those that enter U.S. high schools graduate compared to 90 percent in Switzerland, 91 percent in the UK, 93 percent in Finland, and 97 percent in Germany. Dropouts are twice more likely to slip into poverty than high school graduates.
Poverty adversely affects school performance. A recent U.S. study that tracked a group of eighth-graders in 1988 found that students who did very well on a standardized test but were poor were less likely to get through college than their peers who tested poorly but were well-off.
Everyone in our country has the potential to contribute meaningfully and is much too valuable to be thrown away. There is much more that we need to do regarding U.S. poverty. Isn’t it time we seriously address this problem?
That’s what I think, what about you?
[i]Zakaria, Fareed. http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/12/zakaria-mitt-you-need-to-worry-about-the-very-poor/, 2012 Feb 12.
[ii] Lowry, Rich. Just Not The Marrying Kind, Time, 6 Mar 2012, p13.