Discuss how poverty in the United States challenges American principles of equality and opportunity by focusing on examples of race, and class in family, education and workplace settings.
Poverty in United States can be considered as a major driving force in the challenges that threaten American principles of equality and opportunity. United States is made up of people from races, different family classes, different educational backgrounds and different workplace settings. Poverty increases the challenges that are brought by such differences.
First, race has a direct link to extreme poverty in United States. There are various racial economic disparities that cause a slow progress towards equality. Muhammad (n.d.) suggests that there is a wide gap between Africans and the Whites in terms of wealth and wages. Median per capita income in United States in 2005 was $16,629 for blacks and $28,946 for whites. This shows that Africans are poorer than the whites. This state of poverty among the blacks cause challenges for the US to achieve the principles of equality and opportunity. In his article, Black vs. Latinos at work, Miriam Jordan describes the relationship between work and race to show the challenges of opportunity and equality in the US. He gives an example of Donnie Gaut who applied for a job and his application was turned down because he was black. When he filed a case with the EEOC, he won and was compensated by the company alongside six other applicants of the job. Jordan suggests Latinos are preferred to blacks because there is a stereotype that they work better than blacks. This causes poverty among blacks and increases inquality at the workplace.
Annette Lareau observes that family class has brought about inequalities in the US. She suggests that America is full of opportunity but also challenged by inequality. She considers that such an inequality is brought about by differences in family classes. According to Lareau, families of United States are classified into middle class, working class and poor families. Children reared in poor and working class families are usually faced by economic strains and poverty while the middle class children are reared with enough resources. Children from middle class have institutional advantages and acquire skills that they can use to help them in future. Therefore, poverty among the poor and the working class promotes inequality. This is because as children from middle class families gain skills that they will use to improve their lives in future, children from poor and working class families remain poor even in future. In this regard, poor and working class families will never enjoy opportunities that the economy of the US presents to their counterparts from the middle class.
Larreau (n.d.) suggests that individualism in United States plays a crucial role in passing on poverty from one poor generation to the next through educational attainments. She indicates that two-thirds of American Children achieve their parent’s educational levels, while the other third follow a different path from those of their parents. In this case, education has a way of rewarding the rich and keeping those who are poor to become poorer. United States of America finds it difficult to achieve the principles of equality and opportunity because people from poor families remain poorer from generation to generation due to lack of good education. Due to their poverty, poor families lack resources to educate their children. As a result, such children may end up leaving school before joining college or the University. On the other hand, children from middle class families have resources and can go to school to the highest level possible; hence they get good educational skills and good jobs that will keep them rich. Therefore, the rich become richer and the poor remain poor. In this case, poverty and lack of education interact to increase the challenges facing equality and opportunity in United States.
Another key factor that causes the challenges affecting the principles of equality and opportunity in United States is work setting. An example of work setting that is likely to increase the problems of inequality and lack of opportunity is a work setting that considers women as appropriate for low paying hard work and men as appropriate for skillful and high-paying jobs. Karen Hossfeld argues that gendering of workers at the work place affects workplace culture and causes poverty to some gender. Femininity influences the hiring decisions of some managers. Some women find factory and wage-earning jobs as non-feminine. They also use their earnings to promote their femininity through manicures, hair styling and make-ups. On the other hand, men work in factories and wage earning jobs to prosper themselves. In this case, families that depend solely on the women send up remaining poor while those with a male bread winner end up becoming rich. This shows that work settings that are based on feminism and masculinity increases poverty for women groups and increases riches for men. This increases problems of gender inequality and lack of opportunity for women who would have otherwise contributed well to the progress of their families and the nation if they would have been given the chance.
From this analysis, it is clear that poverty in various groups challenge the principles of equality and opportunity. For instance; education benefits the rich, workplace favours men and Latinos over women and blacks, and whites get more earnings that blacks. Poverty causes the poor to lack education, women to settle for poor payment, and blacks to miss jobs.
Hossfeld, K.J. (n.d.) Gender, Race, and Class in the Silicon Valley.
Jordan, M. (n.d.). Black vs. White at work.
Lareau, A. (n.d.). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life.
Muhammad, D. (n.d.). Race and Extreme Inequality.