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Poverty and Sociology Essay

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In 2010, about 46.2 million people were considered poor. The nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent, whereas in 2009, 14.3 percent of people in America were living in poverty (Censky, 2011). That is an increase of 2.6 million people in 2010. In the United States, the federal poverty line – an absolute measure of annual income – is frequently used to determine who is categorized as poor (Ferris & Stein, 2008, 2010). Currently the government defines the poverty line as an income of $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four (Censky, 2011). In sociology, poverty can be defined using two terms – relative deprivation and absolute deprivation. Relative deprivation is a comparison between people and social class. With relative deprivation, people are considered poor if their standard of living is less than that of other members of society (Ferris & Stein, 2008, 2010). Absolute deprivation is an objective measure of poverty, whereby people are considered poor because he or she is incapable to meet minimal fundamentals such as food, shelter, health care and material objects. Is it difficult to participate in society for those who live in an impoverished life? Many would say that people living in poverty are behind in our cultural movement; that he or she lack the essentials to be on an equal level with the rest of society. Many theories have been applied to the issue of poverty with controversy over how and if the poverty problem should be addressed. Inequality, homelessness, and the idea of the American dream also has an influence on poverty.
A theory of poverty promoted in 1959 by Oscar Lewis is the idea of a culture of poverty theory. The culture of poverty theory is an entrenched attitude that can develop am...


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...does not match reality since it is more of an ideology. The American Dream is nothing more than a belief that explains and justifies some sort of social arrangement, in this case America’s social class hierarchy (Ferris & Stein, 2008, 2010). A problem with the achievement of the American Dream is inequality. Inequality rooted in race, social class and ethnicity suggests that the American Dream is not attainable at all. Sociologists found that no matter how hard an individual works or seeks out a good education, the majority will make little movement up the social class ladder at all. The American Dream does the opposite of what it is sought out to be; it encourages consumerism and valorizes material wealth which ultimately leaves Americans in debt. With Americans going more and more into debt, there is an increasingly unlikely escape from their position of poverty.


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