Contemporary society is facing diverse issues that frequently become the burden of the whole of humanity. Such social problems as crime, violence, different aspects of health care, environmental issues, and various cases of inequality, as well as many other events, are broadly argued over and discussed. One of the recent events related to an acute social issue of poverty in the United States involves the U.N. report on extreme U.S. poverty and human rights in the context of Donald Trump’s policies (Gray, 2018). This document attracted particular attention due to the criticism of policies implemented by the current U.S. President. This paper summarizes the events and analyzes them from sociological perspectives.
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Summary of the Event
The event under consideration is a recent one since the mentioned report was published in May 2018. The U.N. special rapporteur admits that the general policy response has been neglectful for about five decades. Moreover, the latest policies “pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship” (Gray, 2018, para. 2). The report is based on interviews with all-level officials, as well as members of congress and people living in poverty. Although the U.N. has no authority to stimulate change in the actions of government, the mentioned document was expected to spur a debate after its release. It reflects on such burning social issues as income inequality, voting rights, health care, child poverty, racism, and poverty-related stereotypes (Gray, 2018).
The statistics related to poverty in the U.S. provided in the report are striking. For example, it is mentioned that while 40 million American citizens live in poverty, and about 18.5 million are considered to live in extreme poverty (Gray, 2018). Moreover, 5.3 million Americans live in conditions identical to Third World absolute poverty. One-third of individuals living in poverty are children (Gray, 2018). Another important aspect of this event is the discussion of the consolidation of wealth in the United States. It implies a significant income inequality that resulted in the fact that in 2016, 1% of the top American population owned 38.6% of the country’s total wealth (Gray, 2018). Finally, the report breaks the myth of the American dream that implies success due to hard work because it appears to be an illusion in practice, particularly for females and representatives of minorities.
The Analysis of the Event
According to the U.N. report, the United States has an urgent problem of poverty (Deaton, 2018). In fact, the U.S. is one of the generally high-income countries that face the issue of extreme poverty. Thus, based on data from the World Bank, 1.7% of Americans live on $4 a day or less, and this percentage is even higher in Spain (2%), Italy (2.3%), and Portugal (2.5%) (Deaton, 2018). Still, apart from the economic aspect, the problem of poverty is related to some social concepts that may need a deeper analysis. Therefore, poverty and the case of the U.N. report about the United States imply such concepts as a class, equality, race, social justice, and social stratification.
The concept of class roots back in Marxist theory, where two classes, those of bourgeoisie and proletariat, were identified (Marx, 2018). In fact, social class presupposes the division of society on the grounds of social and economic status. As related to the problem of poverty, class is frequently a decisive factor. Representatives of poorer classes have fewer opportunities to obtain education and find a highly-paid job, which results in a lower income. In fact, class is one of the fundamental types of social stratification (Braham, 2013).
Equality is another concept that is related to the problem of poverty. Social equality presupposes that people within a certain society have equal rights, freedoms, and access to services and goods (Braham, 2013). Individuals that live in extreme poverty are deprived of all those opportunities, and, therefore, the principle of equality is not followed. Moreover, poor citizens have fewer education and employment alternatives. Such a situation results in lower wages due to the unqualified labor of workers without education or the growth of unemployment rates because of higher education requirements to employees (Boland, 2015). Moreover, these processes increase the gap between rich and poor.
The race is a concept integral to social studies because racial disparities are inevitable in every society. This aspect in social context implies race-related social cognition as well as stereotypes that influence attitudes towards a person. Belonging to a certain ethnicity, in the American context, in particular, is a decisive factor for many employers. Despite many interventions to eliminate discrimination and promote equality, the race is still significant. Consequently, it has an impact on salary, and in case the salary is low, it leads to poverty. Also, racial disparities result in certain peculiarities of life and family structure, which can also influence the financial status of people. Thus, an extended family of a racial minority is more likely to live in poverty than a local family in the same community (Ambert, 2013).
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Social justice is one of the primary concerns of political leaders. Nevertheless, in many locations, it is not achieved yet. Social justice can be treated as fair relations between society and the people that live in it (Braham, 2013). This concept implies the distribution of income and wealth, possibilities for personal development, and privileges that members of society have. In relation to the concept of poverty, the principles of social justice are not followed. Poor people lack access to basic social rights such as high-quality health care or education (Deaton, 2018). Consequently, reaching social justice is expected to reduce poverty rates.
Social stratification is a concept that is decisive for poverty. In sociology, stratification can be explained as placing groups of people in society according to their status (Braham, 2013). In contemporary societies, the major principle for stratification is grounded on income and wealth. Social stratification is closely related to the concept of class. Usually, wealthy individuals with high income belong to a higher class and have a corresponding status in society. Consequently, poor people belong to the lower classes and have fewer privileges.
To summarizing, it should be mentioned that poverty is a burden not only of poor states. High-income countries such as the United States also face this problem and are not successful in its solution. The problem of poverty is a complex one because it is related to many other social concepts such as equality, social stratification and justice, race, and class. Therefore, society can reach the solution to this issue through a complex approach that provides opportunities for resolving minor social problems.
Ambert, A.-M. (2013). The web of poverty: Psychosocial perspectives (2nd ed.).New York, NY: Routledge.
Boland, T. (2015). Job-seeking: Making a self for the labor market. In T. Boland & R. Griffin (Eds.), The sociology of unemployment (pp. 174-189). Manchester, MA: Manchester University Press.
Braham, P. (2013). Key concepts in sociology. London, UK: SAGE Publications
Deaton, A. (2018). The U.S. can no longer hide from its deep poverty problem. The New York Times. Web.
Gray, S. (2018). Trump policies highlighted in scathing U.N. report on U.S. poverty. Fortune. Web.
Marx, K. (2018). Classes in capitalism and pre-capitalism. In D. B. Grusky (Ed.), Social stratification: Class, race, and gender in sociological perspective (4th ed.), (pp. 79-88). New York, NY: Routledge.