Undisputedly poverty has been one of the major persistent social problems in the United States for hundreds of years. Poverty does not discriminate against Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews, homosexuals, heterosexuals, age, gender, or persons with disabilities. Poverty can strike any population, community, ethnic group, and family. According to the U.S Census Bureau, 43.6 million people were in poverty in 2009 which was an increase from 2008. (Insert citation for website). There are multiple causes of why a family or individual can fall into poverty, which includes but not limited to, disability, unemployment, age, and recessions, as for which we have seen through the 2008 recession and the Great Depression. Throughout this paper I will address poverty as a social problem and its causes. I will also focus on how children and family households headed by single mothers are effected by poverty, and how Temporary Assistance for Needy Families came about to help children and families in poverty.
Before we can explain the causes of poverty, one must first define what poverty is. If you were to ask someone for their definition of poverty, you would get several different definitions. There has been much conflict in the United States over defining poverty, but according to Diana DiNitto (2007), poverty can be defined in six different ways. Poverty as deprivation, inequality, lack of human capital, culture, exploitation, and structure are the six different ways. When a family or individual does not have the adequate amount of income to meet all of their basic needs, they are described as being deprived. Poverty as deprivation explains that a family or individual is deprived when they are living below the standard of living. An argument that has arose about defining poverty as deprivation is that no one can pin-point a level of material well-being that is necessary to avoid deprivation. (DiNitto, 2007).
Although deprivation is an arbitrary definition for poverty, the government came up with the poverty threshold. The poverty threshold is the federal government’s calculation of cash income required for an individual and families to meet their basic necessities. (DiNitto, 2007) The first poverty threshold calculation was done in 1964 by the Social Security Administration and Economist Mollie Orshansky. The poverty threshold calculations were done by estimating a low-cost and nutritious food budget for households. The originally calculations only estimated the cost for individuals ages 65 and up, but the current calculations are based on the Consumer Price Index. (DiNitto, 2007) According to the census bureau, as of 2009 the poverty threshold for a family of four, which include two adults and two children, is $21, 756. (Insert citation from website).
Poverty as culture explains that poverty is a way of life that is passed down throughout generations. This cycle does not only involve low income, but it also includes an attitude of...