It may be difficult to admit that we all have individual views and cultural biases that have been influenced by stereotypes. However, we can diminish the spread of stereotypes by gaining more knowledge on these topics. The negative stereotype of the “culture of poverty” has molded the minds of American citizens in order to make sense of the ongoing poverty crisis our nation faces. In order to fix this vicious cycle of falsified knowledge we must reevaluate the way we approach the subject of poverty, and acknowledge the most common stereotypes in which many have been so easily persuaded into believing.
Myth #1: All US citizens have equal opportunities in education
Reality: Many children that are born into poverty face many hardships that set back their ability to achieve a decent education. Children born to low income families are more subjected to low birth weight, reduced access to health care, and lack access to adequate school supplies. It has also been shown that 32 percent of children who experience poverty for half of their childhood do not make it to graduation day. This is an example of the severe wealth inequality that plagues our country. Opportunities for growth and accessibility to a quality affordable education is limited due to the lack of social and economic mobility, making it exceedingly difficult for individuals to pull themselves out of poverty.
Myth #2: Poor people do not care about education
Reality: Relative to myth #1, the severity of unequal wealth distribution within our country leaves children with a disadvantage in the educational system. The stereotype that the poor do not value education for themselves or their children as much as wealthier individuals are a claim that cannot be proven true. Studies have shown that low income families have high expectations for their children’s education. Any discrepancies in parent’s school involvement may prove to be a consequence of average earnings including cost of child care, transportation, and time off work. Although some school districts offer these services to relieve some financial burden, the reality is that this type of involvement in education is less accessible to low income families. Besides school involvement most evidence portrays that attitudes involving interest in education in poor communities are the same as those of a higher economic status.
Myth #3: People are poor because they are lazy
Reality: The current economic crisis has effected millions of Americans across the country by limiting job creation and making job availability more difficult to come by. Many are doing the best the possibly can to make ends meet to support their families. To come to the conclusion that most people stuck in poverty are simply lazy and do not wish to work is ignorant. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics stated that “More than 10.5 million people in poverty formed the “working poor” in the U.S. in 2010, meaning they were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks.” The “working poor” works a near equivalent of 1.2 full time jobs, consolidating different part-time jobs in order to support themselves and their family. Furthermore, even though it seems that there has been an increase in job creation over the past couple of years, the Department of Labor predicts that less than half of the jobs added to the U.S economy by 2018 will pay enough to keep a two-worker, two-child family out of poverty.
Myth #4: Most poor people are substance abusers
Reality: All over the world, lower income individuals are linked to alcohol and substance abuse. This is a stereotype that stops people from giving their hard earned money to the local homeless man or women on the sidewalk in fear that they will spend it on alcohol or drugs. It is also the driving force behind the republican agenda to enforce a mandatory drug test for every individual applying for unemployment benefits. Although studies have shown that alcohol and drug abuse among youth is equal despite socioeconomic status it has shown that drug and alcohol consumption is more prevalent in wealthier communities rather than their poorer counterparts. This is because wealthier individuals have more disposable income than people who are less fortunate. Alcohol and substance abuse is a national epidemic that affects all individuals regardless of their economic or social status. Limiting substance abuse issues to low income communities seriously hinders our ability to inform younger generations about this issue and further masks importance of a national problem.
Myth #5: Food stamps and other government assistance programs make people “dependent”
Reality: Government assistance programs have helped many hardworking Americans get back on their feet. It has been a safety net that has not only helped protect American citizens but help put money back economy and keep it running. However, right-wing ideology claims that they are responsibly for a “culture of permanent dependency.” Programs such as SNAP ( food stamp program) has lent a hand in helping the less fortunate obtain food for themselves and their family. Many argue that this “government hand-out” cripples the impoverished and does not give them the motivation to get a job and provide for themselves. However, many do not know that people enrolled in this program do not receive much food stamp money. Four percent get only $16 a month, the average household gets $281 a month, and the average individual gets $133 a month. It is difficult to comprehend anyone quitting a job or refusing a job offer to receive $133 a month that can only be used on food and nothing else.