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The price of poverty in America

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As the wealth gap widens, we are only seeing more and more poor people being neglected by society and the government. Karl Marx’s idea of the proletariat rebelling against the bourgeoisie doesn’t seem so far fetched nowadays. You don’t have to be classified as homeless to be considered impoverished.  A U.S. Census Bureau report in October 2014 said that more than 48 million Americans live below the poverty line.

The goal of American politicians is to widen the middle class so that wealth is distributed more evenly, but what about the people on rock bottom? Where do they go, and how do they reach the middle class? Wealth inequality is clearly rampant in America and much of the country remains split between the affluent haves and the deprived have nots.

What comes along with being poor? Stress. Emotional, physical and mental stress.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 8.7 percent of people with incomes below the poverty line, which approximately rounds up to $20,000 for a family of three, reported serious psychological distress from 2009 to 2013. These numbers are compared to the 1.2 percent reported for families with annual incomes around $80,000, four times above the poverty line, for a family of three.

Researchers found that lack of health insurance was a contributor to high stress after discovering that 30.4 percent of working-age adults with major stress had no health insurance, compared with just 20.5 percent of working-age adults without high stress. 

Consequently, a person with mental health problems may have a harder time holding on to a stable job, and without employment, attaining health insurance, or paying for health insurance may be problematic.

With the negative social stigma associated with impoverished people, families dealing with mental illnesses and financial problems may not receive the support they need to stay afloat.

When we ignore and segregate the poor from our community, we exacerbate the problem. It is difficult to engage effectively in society when you are at a disadvantage with these compound burdens of poverty, stress, and mental illness.

Improving the lives of middle class Americans will help the economy just as well as relieving the burdens of those in deep poverty.

For those living in deep poverty, their little to no income prevents them from contributing more to the economy, and upward mobility is more difficult the further down the ladder they are.

As a community, we need to break down barriers of stigma and reach out to help those in need. Whether it involves donating to mental healthcare, community college funds or shelters, any act of gratitude is a step forward in disbanding the wealth gap and moving towards a progressive society.