12 Shocking Facts about Poverty in the US

1. The thought that poverty is caused by poor work ethic, or personal choice is deep seeded in American culture. The perception originated with the first Puritan settlers in America, whom had a hard work ethic and no remorse for the poor, despite having lived in similar conditions before.  (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 286)

2. Children who grow up in poverty, are very likely to remain in poverty throughout their life, as they are “enveloped in the culture of poverty” and “have absorbed its values.”(DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 295)

3. The formula for calculating poverty has not been updated since the 1960s, despite so many things changing in this time! This means that families who are truly struggling but don’t meet the outdated standards of the poverty threshold, will be less likely to receive benefits and much needed assistance. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 301)

4. 37 million Americans were considered to be living in poverty in 2005. This is a huge proportion of the American population, at 13%! (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 302)

5. Of those 37 million Americans in 2005, 39% were Black or Hispanic single women. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 302)

6. Poverty seems to have increased since estimates taken in 2005. In 2014 nearly 15% of the American population, or 46.7 million people were considered to be living in poverty. (Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics)

7. Poverty affects nearly everyone: By age 65, every 1 in 2 Americans will live in poverty for at least a year. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 303)

8. Poverty stricken neighborhoods are often the homes of landfills, sewage plants, & prisons. These same neighborhoods are usually the homes of minorities, who experience poverty at unprecedented rates. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 299)

9.  Programs that assist the homeless can have extremely long waiting periods. For example, Opportunities at Broome currently has a 3 year waiting period! (K. Robertson, personal communication)

10. DSS can ban people from receiving services if they continue to miss appointments, despite the struggles they may have getting to and from their local offices! The bans can last anywhere from a few months to a lifetime. (K. Robertson, personal communication)

11. There is a huge stigma associated with living in poverty. In fact, some children whom receive free lunch at school, choose to go hungry instead of being labeled poor. (J. Vassello, personal communication)

12. There is hope. Programs such as Head Start, which assists low income children, have been proven to be effective in reducing poverty in future generations. (DiNitto & McNeece, 2008, p. 304)


DiNitto, D., & McNeece, C. (2008). Social work: Issues and opportunities in a
challenging profession (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books
Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 23, 2016, from http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html
Robertson, Kelly. Personal communication. February 23rd.
Vassello, John. Personal communication. February 23rd.

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