These figures imply that there are about 37 million people well below the poverty threshold as at end-2004.
In view of the above, steps on how to alleviate poverty in the country must be efficiently programmed. In order to address the heart of this matter, legislators and private sector should have an understanding of key issues regarding poverty and the poor people in the US. The lives of those people bordering or below the poverty line are controlled by myriad factors which should be taken into consideration. This paper provides an overview of the profile of poor people and discusses how economic and social factors such as availability of job opportunities, prevailing wage levels, single parenthood, level of education, housing, health, mental illness and substance abuse among others affect the poor in America.
The poverty line is defined by the Census Bureau as a threshold level of total money income, which includes wages and salaries, self-employment income, interest income, social security and welfare benefits, alimony and unemployment compensation, received by all family members on an annual basis. The threshold set varies depending on the number of adults and children in the family.
As at end-2004, a family with two parents and two children required $19,157 to be above poverty line. A family headed by a single parent with two children needed $15,219 to elude poverty. On the other hand, a single elderly person needed $9,060 to answer day-to-day needs. Those who fall within the said levels are deemed poor. (Cadena & Sallee)
As mentioned, poverty rate rose to 12.7% in 2004 from 12.5% in 2003. The increase in poverty is attributed to the decrease in real earnings. This means that, although relatively more people who wanted to work had jobs in 2004 than in the previous year, many have earned less after their earnings are adjusted for inflation. (Cadena & Sallee)
The median earnings fell by 1.0% and 2.3%, for women and men working full time, respectively. The increase in poverty level is also considered to be concentrated among native-born non-Hispanic white Americans between the ages of 18 and 64. (Cadena & Sallee)
One of the primary factors affecting poor people is the availability of suitable employment. This is vital since it is mainly from the earnings gained from working that people are able to meet their needs and required sustenance. It is observed though that limited job opportunities as well as the prevailing low wages contribute to the persistence of poverty in America ("Hunger and Poverty in the United States"). The minimal wage for unskilled workers and some employment barriers for poor job seekers are deemed to perpetuate poverty (Mangum, Mangum & Sum).
Albeit as much as 50% of all those considered living in poverty are actually working, their jobs pay minimal wages barely enough to cover their basic needs and that do not keep up with the rising inflation. In this regard, these people still fall under the poverty line. These conditions are aggravated by the fact that the working people in poverty are not able to receive social welfare benefits from the government as their earnings make them ineligible for government assistance. (Giddens)
In order to make ends meet, some people are forced to get an extra job. Given the rising cost of living, one job may not be