Avoiding Poverty in America – The Citizen

In the richest country in the world, millions of people still live in poverty. In 2020, according to usafacts.org, 11.4% of Americans live in poverty. And, as census.gov reports, that translates to 37.2 million people living in poverty. President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, now 58, has failed to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty in this country.

How did all this happen? More importantly, what can people do to get out of poverty? Two organizations politically at odds have found the same solution.

The two organizations were the Brookings Institute (a left-wing think tank) and the Heritage Foundation (a right-wing group). The results and conclusions of their studies were the same.

Three stages have been described which, regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identification, wealth status, etc., would almost guarantee that people following them could avoid to live in poverty.

These three steps are:

1) High school diploma.

2) Get a job and keep your job.

3) Wait until you are over 21 and married to have children.

It seems almost too simplistic. Get a degree, get and keep a job, and don’t get married or have children until you’re at least 21 and married. Yet we know that high school dropouts are likely to have menial jobs, if they can get one. And, if they do, promotions and significant salary increases are rare. High school dropouts have an unemployment rate nearly twice that of high school graduates.

While it’s hard to find a job in the first place, the problem is compounded by people leaving those jobs, getting fired, or changing jobs often. I once knew a person who had more than ten different jobs in one year. It’s very difficult to build a track record as a reliable employee with that kind of record. It is also very difficult to get more than minimum wage if you move from job to job.

And getting married and/or having children at a very young age puts extra pressure on the couple/parent and can result in children being brought up in poverty, especially if the child has an absent father. And, as I observed during my years of social work, children raised in poverty have difficulty escaping the cycle of poverty.

According to the US Census, children in married households are the least likely to be in poverty, at 11%. Children living in single-parent families have poverty rates more than twice those of children living in single-parent families (48% versus 22%).

Certainly, there are people who overcome these formidable obstacles and continue to do well. But, according to studies by the Brookings Institute and the Heritage Foundation, there are handicaps that can be avoided and lay the foundations for a better future, one free from the curse of poverty. When left and right agree on something, it’s probably worth noting.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streamed at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) and may contacted at [email protected]]

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