Hurricane Katrina exposed the extent of poverty in the Gulf States particularly in New Orleans, Louisiana. Poor people, mostly African-Americans and other minorities are unlikely to evacuate if they have no form of transportation. Hurricanes do not discriminate, and they will affect everyone in their path, but the consequences are worse for people without the resources to respond appropriately and in a timely manner. Thus, in an environment where there are stark racial and economic disparities, a stratification of opportunity would emerge with respect to resource access, housing, education, health and employment.
According to their analysis, a family of four making less than $19,000 a year will spend an average of $5,274 on housing, $2,350 on utilities, $4,852 on transportation, $4815 on food, at least $793 on health and medical expenses and last but not least $2,030 on child care. Well, if you add up all these expenses for a family of four in one year, you end up with a budget deficit of $1,304. In essence, that family is spending more than they earn, and this does not include School Supplies, Education, Life Insurance, Recreation and other daily necessities, etc. etc---. How can this family make it year to year if it continues to have a ballooning budget deficit? The fact is it will be tough and rough; parents and children are affected alike and in a competitive environment, the family will be left behind. The family has to make tough choices every day in a state of poverty. It is our responsibility and obligation as members of the human family to influence the policy making process so that such a state of affairs will not continue to affect the lives of millions of people. Ending poverty is an attainable goal in the richest country on earth. Let us all join in the fight against poverty.
There are 36.2 million African-Americans (12.9 percent of the U.S. population) in the United States, of which 31.3 are under the age of 18. The United States Census Bureau 2000 reveals that the median earnings of African-American men were $30,000, compared with 37,100 for all men and African-American women women’s earnings were $25,600, in comparison to $27,200 for all women. The National Urban League’s State of Black America 2004 observed that the unemployment rate for African-Americans is 10.8 percent compared to 5.2 percent for whites, which indicates that black unemployment is twice the rate of whites. This means in order to close the employment gap, 751,000 more blacks need to be employed than currently exists. Providing employment opportunities to African-Americans and other minorities will not end poverty, but will go a long way in alleviating the problem.
Poverty is defined as “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions or the state of one with insufficient resources.” The poverty line thus is the “level of personal or family income below which one is classified as poor according to governmental standards.” In the United States, the poverty line for a family of four is $18,810 per year. If we apply this standard to African-Americans, then 25 percent of African-Americans are in poverty compared to 12 percent of the population. A higher proportion of the female African-American population is in poverty than the total female population. Further fewer than 50 percent of blacks families own their homes compared to 70 percent for whites. House ownership, better educational and employment opportunities are the key variables to close the gap on poverty. In an era of globalization and information technology, there is also a digital poverty gap. People in poverty cannot afford home computers and home internet access. This digital divide will continue to expand unless substantial resources are allocated to close this critical gap. Global economic transactions are conducted more and more in cyberspace and people below the poverty line particularly African-Americans and other minorities should be included in the equation to create more wealth. After all, the objective is to improve the human condition, and that can only materialize if policymakers provide more resources for education, housing, employment and health.
Let’s look at the poverty line and see whether someone below that line can budget for a family of four. The Catholic relief Services developed such a budget using data from the U.S.Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Survey; United States Department of Agriculture, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; U.S. Census Bureau, Current population Survey 2004 Annual Social and Economic Supplement . The data for the variables measured were rent, utilities, transportation, food, health care, child care. The questions they raised included 1.How far does $18, 810 go in America today? 2. How do you budget? and 3. What do you leave out?