Poverty has existed for as long as human society has existed. There appears to be little chance of eliminating poverty at any time in the near future. There have nevertheless been positive steps taken that have alleviated some of the worse consequences of being poor. Low-income families face many challenges and stresses that other families do not, nevertheless, there are advantages that have been made available to the poor that can lesson the burden.
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What is known as the social safety net was created during the early to mid-twentieth century as a reaction to some of the worse effects of urbanisation and industrialism. Meant to alleviate some of the worse effects of poverty, government assistance for the poor is available in most developed countries. Government services include welfare payments, as well as food stamps and health-care assistance. Low-income families may take advantage of these services to alleviate suffering.
Also during the twentieth century, most governments adopted some form of a progressive tax system in order to pay their costs. Under this system the more that you earn a year the more that you pay in taxes. This allows for an extremely low-tax rate for individuals and families in the lower-income brackets. There are a sizeable number of individuals and families in the United States who do not pay any income taxes.
By far one of the worst side-effects of being poor is that it makes it much more likely that you will be the victim of crime. It has been shown that crime of all kinds disproportionately effects poor victims. The reasons for this are many but include the fact that the poor tend to live in low-income areas where crime is already higher. This is a significant disadvantage for low-income families.
Another very unfortunate side effect of already having a low income is that it often makes it harder to receive a good education. State schools are primarily funded in the United States by local taxes. In already impoverished areas it is difficult to raise the funding for schools. The price of private schools puts them out of the reach of most low-income families making state schools the only option available for educating children.
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- New York Times: Rising Poverty and the Social Safety Net
- Urban Institute: The Social Safety Net at the Beginning of Federal Welfare Reform
- American Prospect: A Modern Safety Net
- Washington Post: China hopes social safety net will push its citizens to consume more, save less
- MSNBC: In Europe, social safety net softens the slump
- Washington Independent: The Frayed Social Safety Net