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Like many other countries in the world, the United States has several issues which need to be improved for better living standards of its people. These issues range from social, political to economic and have been noted to negatively impact on the lives of millions of Americans with numerous improvement calls. Poverty, a major social economic scourge in the world, continues to affect the U.S and other developed nations. The main concern about poverty in the United States is on the manner in which it is measured for socio-development purposes. As stated by Citro, Michael & Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance United States (1995), the national measure of poverty greatly affects our general comprehension of the number of Americans that are in poverty, which group of people is in poverty and how poverty patterns tend to change with changing policies and economic environment. It is important however to note that the current approach in measuring poverty is highly flawed and needs to be reviewed and needs to be improved. Although the dollar figures have always been used to measure poverty among different families, they are quite low and illogical. These rules do not put into consideration a number of factors such as some resources like food stamps, tax and other important domestic expenses used in measuring the available income in every family. Based on such a flawed system, poverty measure fails to reveal significant effects of particular strategies aimed at strengthening the economic welfare of many families. This needs to be rationalized and enhanced for better planning (Citro, Michael & Panel on Poverty and Family Assistance United States, 1995).
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Although there is no better alternative in measuring poverty in the U.S, the fact remains that there is a possibility of improving the current measure to become a substantial and reliable way of measuring poverty. As noted by many analysts and economic experts, appropriate legislation would play a paramount role in giving direction to statistics bodies like Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau with emphasis being given to National Academy of Sciences recommendations. Additionally, the legislation would foster development of a measure of living standards better than modified ways of measuring poverty. The Congress is charged with the mandate of improving poverty determination methods in order to improve the living standards of many who continue struggling to make ends meet. This would offer a more elaborate and accurate way of understanding the way in which people fall into poverty especially during global economic recession and ensure that administration strategies are based on diverse factors affecting the well-being of its people.
An effective measure of poverty is mainly comprised of two elements which are quite essential in decision making. The first constituent refers to thresholds applied to determine the position of a given family in relation to the poverty line. This is best achieved by considering the income of households in relation to the set standard. Another component of the poverty measure is based on the rules used in resource-counting and poverty determination. It is worthy noting that the present thresholds being used in the U.S to make poverty-related decision by the administration were adopted in 1960s. It is obvious that a lot has changed in terms socio-economic development and this measure which became effective five decades ago fails to address poverty in a rationalized way.
The current system of measuring poverty in the United States has received massive criticism. One of these is the fact that the system has low thresholds upon which its analysis is based. This is due to the fact that tremendous changes have taken place since 1960 including variation of average food cost in relation to family expenditure. Unlike in 1960s when this was a third of the total expenditure, current findings have revealed that most families in the United States spend a seventh of the total expenditure on food. Additionally, there has been a drop in the level at which a filmily is considered poor.
Moreover, thresholds used in poverty measuring are quite arbitrary. This is because they depict a number that was computed more than forty years ago and later adjusted because of inflation that has continually been witnessed in the world. As a result, the thresholds do not represent the current living standards of Americans with regard to family income and expenditure. Do resource-counting rules affect measuring of? These rules have been considered to either understate or exaggerate current resources. They do not put into consideration a number of policies which have been adopted and implemented since their establishment. Refundable tax credits and subsidies imposed on housing are examples of policies which are not reflected in resource-counting rules, a major basis of measuring poverty. These rules also fail to put into consideration the effect of health costs and work expenses among others. It is also noted that poverty measuring rules fail to factor in geographical variations despite the fact that there is a large difference in costs and income across United States. It is therefore clear that the poverty measure over-counts and undercounts resources which greatly affect the living standards of any nation (Blank, 2008). As a result, this approach does not show logical poverty trends when administrative policies change.
The current U.S measure of poverty fails to address the living standards of many Americans especially after a long period of economic transformations some of which continue to take place to date. It is important for this measure to clearly define poverty threshold to give a limit of income and resources below which a family would be considered poor. The present absolute threshold in the U.S needs to be changed and a relative threshold system adopted in order to address continuous variation in income. Another important definition to be considered in improving the measure of poverty in the U.S is a resource defining the nature of resources which need to be counted for every family with comparisons of the threshold in order to establish poverty level among families.
In an influential article, Blank notes that it is quite essential to understand income aggregation level with time. This means that poverty patterns among families need to be measured annually to establish a realistic and applicable trend unlike the current approach which is based on variables derived in 1960s (Blank, 2008). The debate on whether poverty should be measured over a long short period of time needs to be addressed with soberness and focus. It should also be clear whether only members of a family living together should be the only ones counted when calculating family poverty or it should comprise all households and cohabiters. Lastly, family size should be put into consideration when measuring poverty. Since there is no fixed family size, it would be very important to have different threshold for every family depending on its size. As the fight against poverty continues in every nation across the globe, it is necessary for concerned bodies to lay emphasis in proper poverty measuring procedures in order to make decisions based on rationalized and realistic findings.
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