Factors Affecting Poverty in the United States

Instructor: LeRon Haire

LeRon Haire is an education professional with over 5 years experience in higher education within the University System of Georgia. Haire has received an MBA with a marketing undergraduate concentration and has the Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators, certified in Business Management.

In this lesson, we will discuss some of the major factors which affect poverty here in the U.S. This lesson will provide insight into each individual factor and relate it to how it can affect poverty.

What Is Poverty?

Can you recall just how many times in your life that you may have been between pay checks and said that you were flat broke but you were still capable of paying bills and purchasing needed items? Can you recall ever witnessing a homeless person with minimal clothing asking for money while you were out? The difference between the two situations is that the homeless person lives in poverty. Poverty can be defined as having a lack of food, shelter, clothing, money, and the basic necessities to live. In this lesson, we will discuss a few of the factors that affect poverty here in the U.S.


The starting point to fighting poverty actually begins at an early age. Receiving a quality education is one of the most important things that an individual can accomplish in order to be proactive about avoiding a future of poverty. A formal education to a person is similar to a hammer provided to a construction worker; each are used to allow the individual to complete his/her duties.

Imagine that there is a 23 year-old female by the name of Jennifer. She has a three month-old infant, no formal education and has been working as the lead technician at a cable company since the age of 17. Due to an overhaul in the company structure of her job, the cable company has decided that in order for their employees to maintain their jobs, they must have a degree by the end of the year. Unfortunately, the rival cable companies have had this policy in existence for some time now. As a 23 year-old with a small child, Jennifer may possibly face a bleak future without a formal education and no other job experience to.


Discrimination, which is the unfair treatment of a select group of people primarily based on their race or ethnicity, is often described as one of the primary factors that affects poverty in the U.S. By discriminating against an individual or individuals because of their race or ethnicity, there will be a scarcity of jobs available for them. For example, if a manager chooses to discriminate against a specific race or ethnicity, then that manager has significantly lowered the opportunities for members of that group to make a living for themselves. In turn, this raises the discriminated party's chances of living in poverty.

Let's say, for example, that Mark is a 40 year-old Hispanic male with a wife and two children. Although Mark has a 4-year degree and 12 years of work experience, he has found that finding steady and consistent employment has been an issue for him. Mark decided to apply at the same job as four of his friends, who were not Hispanic. Each of the other friends had no formal education along with no work experience. Mark soon received a letter that informed him that he was not selected for the job or the interview. After speaking with each of his friends that applied, they were all selected and hired by the company. In this particular situation, Mark has experienced discrimination first-hand since he had qualifications opposed to his friends.

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