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What is Poverty?


There are no international guidelines for poverty or the measure for low-income levels; however, people who earn below the average income of a country are the ones living in poverty. The poor population face low living standards, a lack of healthcare, and education, and proper food and clothes. Other characteristics of poverty include homelessness, not owning vehicles, lacking a college education, and unemployment.

According to the US Census report (Bureau, US. 2016), the poverty rate of the United States in 2016 was 12.7 percent, which means 40.6 million people live in poverty which is reported to be 2.5 million less than in 2015. Hence, there is an improvement in the situation, but it remains to be a significant portion of the population that requires being addressed.


Defining Poverty

Poverty, in terms of economics, is the income level below the general guideline set by a country. Nevertheless, poverty can be divided into two categories; absolute poverty, which refers to a sufficient level of income to meet the basic needs of living, i.e., food, clothing, and shelter. Secondly, there is relative poverty which is the income level lower than the income level of the majority of the population (Poverty | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). People who lack sufficient food, clothing, and shelter are considered to be in absolute poverty, while people who are earning below the line of average income are considered to be relatively poor than the rest of the population.

However, these concepts are criticized as poverty, and sufficient income level depends on the consumption and preferences of people. Some people do not seek shelter but travel in their vehicles, or do not require high-quality food or clothing, but they earn enough to sustain a quality life and achieve all they need or want.

Poverty by Race

The population living in poverty in the United States has a high number of minority groups of race. The black community experienced 22% poverty rate while Hispanic people suffered from 20% of poverty rate compared to the 9% among the white population. This is due to the racial discrimination in employment and schools and colleges because illiteracy and unemployment are the major contributors to poverty rates (“Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity”).

Poverty by Gender & Age

Gender and age are the other factors that influence rates of poverty. There is an unequal distribution of income among the female and male populations. A 2014 report (“How Does Gender Relate to Poverty Status?”) shows that the poverty rate for the male population was 13% while it was 16% for the female population. This difference can be blamed on the discrimination in the workplace, and household responsibilities of the female population. A single mother who has to provide for her family and give time to them as well is often stuck between earning more and upbringing her children. On the other hand, people under the age of 18 experience a higher rate of poverty (21%) compared to the older generation, i.e., 10 percent (“How Is Poverty Status Related to Age?”)

Poverty by Geographical Location

The number of people living below the federal poverty line is mostly from the suburbs and the urban regions of the U.S. this is due to the higher population in urban areas and low levels of employment opportunities (Kneebone)


It is concluded that poverty can be defined by the living standards and the fulfillment of basic needs of an individual or if the income levels are lower than the national average. Poverty is influenced by many factors such as unemployment, geographical locations, inflation rates, and poor government system. On the other hand, the unequal distribution of income among minority race groups, gender, and age, is a significant concern as this discrimination requires to be catered.

Works Cited

Bureau, US. “Income And Poverty In The United States: 2016.” N. p., 2018. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.

“How Does Gender Relate to Poverty Status?” UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

“How Is Poverty Status Related to Age?” UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

Kneebone, Elizabeth. “The Changing Geography of US Poverty.” Brookings, 15 Feb. 2017,

Poverty | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Accessed 6 Mar. 2018.

“Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 22 Sept. 2017,



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