The existence of poverty and mankind goes hand in hand. Poverty has been here since the beginning of time and the reason for it has always been harder to analyze. Sometimes a person’s personal choices lead to their financial downturn. However, there are times when the already existing disparities in society make you end up in poverty and everything falls outside your control. There are a lot of different opinions out there about poverty being a personal choice or a reflection of society. It is difficult to give a simple answer however, it’s possible to analyze different solutions and come to a conclusion.
About 13.4% of the US population lives below the poverty line and does not have medical insurance and access to other necessities of life. Although there are services out there that provide assistance to such individuals the question arises are they aware of these resources? Is the system friendly and inclusive enough to let such people access these resources?
Over decades it’s seen that society has divided members of it into different groups based on race, color, ethnicity, and beliefs. It makes us look at how society operates at a macro-level. Societal issues such as sexism, racism, and segregation define our social structure which further decides who gets what and who gets how much of the resources. The majority group of a particular society naturally has an advantage over the marginalized group of people who constantly have to fight for education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. Such individuals find themselves in holes that are hard to come out of and that provide inadequate income opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. The evidence that poverty is a reflection of poor social structure can also be seen in the reduction of the national budget to help low-income households.
Despite all the loopholes in our social structure, it’s believed that poor people are lazy and it’s primarily their own fault that they are poor. They are given all the resources to access and the education to manage money but they still end up making irrational decisions leading them to bankruptcy. This belief is often associated with Americans’ cultural values that are more of independent nature. Unlike interdependent cultures like that of Southeast Asia where people see each other in terms of their environment, context, and relationship with others, Americans tend to define a person by emphasizing more on choices, decisions, traits, preferences, and values. We often ignore all the historical and environmental context associated with people and their situations. It makes it relatively easier for us to attribute poverty to a person instead of shifting our lens to get the bird’s eye view.
Personal choice or social disparity—being good humans and having some sort of privilege in our individual lives demand us to step forward to reduce poverty. It is important to use the resources and authority we have to make others’ lives better and easier. Nobody wishes poverty for themselves, nor does anybody want to sleep on the streets during cold winter nights. Instead of being judgemental, we should join hands to lift these people up and make a sustainable system to help them get back on their feet.