Children Growing Up Poor in America

Children Growing Up Poor in America

Why are some people poor and homeless, while others have so much money they literally
throw it away? Depending on who is asked, the reasons for the great inequality range from
illiteracy to corruption. The United States, the wealthiest nation on Earth, has the widest gap
between rich and poor of any industrialized nation, and disparities continue to grow. The people
most affected by poverty are the future of this country, the children. “Young children are the
largest age group living in poverty today. Children are nearly twice as likely as adults to be
poor”( Papalia et al. 295). Thousands of children around the United States sit on street corners
each day begging for change. In New Orleans, you often see these kids tap dancing for the
tourist’s amusement in the French Quarter. It seems cute, but these children are praying
somebody will give them enough money for them to survive another day. Little do these tourists
know the effects poverty has on children include poor health, ignorance, and crime.

Children from disadvantaged families are more likely than any others to have poor
health. “ Most parents of poor children have no medical insurance and don’t have the money to
pay medical bills. Less than half of these children are immunized against such preventable
diseases as measles, polio, and diphtheria” ( Meltzer 44). These children’s poor health often
begins before they are born. Pregnant women of low income are less likely to seek prenatal help
and are more likely to have poor nutrition and abuse drugs. This can have devastating effects on
a baby ranging from low birth weight and abnormalities to death. There are a few government
sponsored programs, such as Medicaid, that try and offset medical problems of the poor youth,
but these programs do not often reach all that need it. Unfortunately poor health is just the
beginning of problems faced by disadvantaged children.

The ability to read and write is a basic condition for social and personal growth. In my
opinion, education is essential to have success in life. When the main goal of life is purely
survival, often privileges such as education and opportunity are forgotten. Poor children perform
less well in school and are more likely to drop out of school. Often, the reason for dropping out
of school is to get a job to help with family expenses. Ironically, without an education even
getting a minimum wage job is impossible to obtain. Illiteracy is often the result of not getting
an education. Lack of education combined with inability to obtain work sometimes leads youth
to a life of crime.

“Theories focusing on the role of society in juvenile delinquency suggest that children
commit crimes in response to their failure to rise above their socioeconomic status”( Streib).
From my own personal observance, I have seen underprivileged classmates fall into the
temptation of gangs and delinquency. They seemed to believe that the only way to get ahead was
to participate in illegal activities that would insure them the money they needed. It is a very sad
situation when a poor youth feels that the only way to get ahead in life is by turning to a life of

Poverty is a trap seldom escaped. Every day children are born into and die in poverty,
and everyday more millions are added into the almost disgustingly fat pockets of men such as
Bill Gates. According to the National Center for Children Living In Poverty, “ The United States
young child poverty rate is substantially higher, often two to three times higher than that of other
Western industrialized nations.” The United States has billions of dollars to spend on weapons
and aid to other countries, but who is going to help the poor children starving in American
streets everyday? The effects poverty has on children include poor health, ignorance, and crime.
Somebody needs to speak for these children who cannot speak for themselves.


Meltzer, Milton. Poverty in America. New York: William Morrow and Company
Incorporated, 1986.

National Center for Children in Poverty. Young Children in Poverty Fact Sheet. 1
July 1999. .

Papalia, Diane E., Sally Wendkos Olds, Ruth Duskin Feldman, eds. A Child’s
World: Infancy Through Adolescence. 8th ed. New York: The
McGraw-Hill,Inc. 1999.

Streib, Victor L. “ Juvenile Crime.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000.
April 6 2000.