The United States is one of the wealthiest nations in the world — a vibrant hub of medical, scientific, and social development and a leader in technological innovation. Yet more than 20.5 million Americans live on less than $11,000 a year for a family of four—half of the federally defined poverty level. Put another way, these Americans are forced to live on just $7.55 a day and their quality of life resembles that of people in the world’s least developed countries.
America was built on a bedrock principle of fairness that enabled us to become the great country we are today. Yet millions of Americans are caught in severe poverty. What’s happened to America’s promise that every person gets access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Poverty is not inevitable, but there are structural reasons for its persistent and pernicious consequences. Poverty is a trap. It ensnares people in physical, economic, social, cultural, and political ways making it difficult to escape.
There is no doubt that poverty is an economic snare. Money enables people to make choices. The trap is also socially confining, leaving the poor alone and isolated from healthier communities, and making it more likely that they will be discriminated against. But the poverty trap is even more than that. It chokes off information that enables people to make better decisions for themselves and their families, and erodes their freedom to act on their own behalf. It drains those struggling with it of hope and a vision for a better future.
Poverty costs lives AND dollars. It affects not only individuals, but their communities, and our whole country.
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