Posted: March 30th, 2022

Generational Poverty And Struggle Essay

Working Poor


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The author of this report has been asked to offer a brief report about the working poor in the United States. There are two main constrictions on this report. First, only the book by David Shipler about the subject shall be used and there will mainly be a focus on the “barriers and biases towards employability” as it relates to the working poor. Indeed, there is very much an “invisibility” of the working poor and there are strong barriers that exist when it comes to the working poor trying to extricate themselves from generational poverty and struggle even if they want to do so and are trying to do the same. While many people in this country that expend great effort and drive are rewarded for their hard work, there are many that seem doomed to repeating the same vicious cycle due to the barriers and biases that exist that ostensibly push back against some people in the working poor.


Book Review


Shipler has several main themes in his book and one need look only at the chapter titles to see the points he wishes to make in his book. He speaks about being at the edge of poverty, money and its opposite, how work “doesn’t work,” how the third world is seemingly being imported into the United States, the “sins” of prior generations and the dreams of those that struggle, just to name a few. Shipler by no means focuses on one race or group in his book. Indeed, the preface states this up front when he says that he saw the economic boom of 1997 but yet saw black people in Washington DC and white people in New Hampshire that were not beneficiaries of the largesse in question. On the same note, he looked at different parts of these economies and cultures including the factories, housing projects and job-training centers. As for the barriers and biases towards employability, Shipler ends up being very verbose and specific about that subject as well.


One barrier that Shipler points to are the time limits on welfare and work rules as it pertains to the same. Shipler notes that some people in poverty break the mold that is otherwise cast in this book as they have skills and traits that allow them to climb the corporate ladder. Concurrent to that, Shipler notes that one major barrier for those that are not so lucky. In the very next paragraph, on page four, he notes that “breaking away and moving a comfortable distance from poverty seems to require a perfect lineup of favorable conditions” (Shipler). These conditions include a set of skills, a good starting wage and a job that actually has the likelihood of promotion, just to name a few. While many hold that people with humble beginnings can transcend into a personal world absent of poverty (the American Myth, as he calls it), Shipler poses the “anti-myth.” This anti-myth is that society is truly responsible for the great many that are stuck in generational poverty and that the gap between the rich and the poor is only getting wider by the day (Shipler). Another barrier that Shipler points to, and indeed a barrier that is fraught with bias, is the fact that the poor are not as able as the affluent to avoid the vices and problems that throw them or keep them in poverty. The poor have less control over their private decisions, are less insulated from the control and bullying of government and they are less able to avoid the pitfalls that are endemic to a world that is fast-paced and unforgiving. Beyond that, the “ingredients” of poverty are both financial and psychological in nature. Problems emerge and get worse in a domino-like nature (Shipler).


One bias that exists in the United States is that the poor are more likely to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service. Another bias comes with election standards and rules. Shipler uses the jurisdictions in FLoria during the contested election between Al Gore and George W. Bush as an example and how a bigger surge in the poor being registered and allowed of vote could have handed the election to Gore. Beyond that, there would seem to be clear bias on the structure of tests and that bias is clearly against the poor of the United States. When it comes to employability, the biggest barrier by far is the viewpoint that the poor are often “unemployable.” Even if test scores during school are good and everything else is otherwise in order, many people that are poor endure through under-treated or non-treated mental illness and this makes the “unemployable” in the eyes of many in the private sector that makes hiring decisions. Other times, there is just an active disdain towards people that are deemed to be from the working poor. This can be based on class, race or both. Even so, the manifestation of the bias really does differ based on the situation and the people involved (Shipler),




To put the problem concisely, there is a confluence of problems that exist when it comes to the working poor. Indeed, many in the working poor make poor life decisions and many parents simply do not do a good job of imparting the right values and decisions. At the same time, the system is clearly biased against the working poor and this is to the extent that even people who wish to change their fate have a very hard time doing so, presuming they succeed at all.


Works Cited


Shipler, David K. The Working Poor. New York: Vintage Books, 2005. Print.

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