Social Change and Poverty

According to the Census Bureau, 46.5 million Americans are living in poverty making the poverty level at 15 percent in 2012, which is an increase from 2007’s 12.5 percent. In addition, the median household income slightly fell from $51,100 in 2011 to $51,017 in 2012 (Hargreaves, 2013). An income of $23, 492 for a family of four or an individual making $11,720 are considered to be living in poverty. The American poverty rate displays alarming numbers and figures, yet there are many factors that contribute poverty; the economy, family dissolution, and government spending contribute to the poverty rates.

Since the 1970s, the lack of economic growth has contributed to poverty, but is not the main, underlying factor. During the 1970s and 1980s, pay rates were falling while poverty was rising and unemployment averaged 6.2 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. Wages began to rise and poverty began to fall after the mid-1990s, while unemployment fell to 4.8 percent between 1995 and 2000 (Haskins & Sawhill, 2007). It’s interesting to mention these facts considering the government wants to raise the minimum wage rate to $10.10 from $7.25. Therefore, one may ask and become aware of the effect raising the minimum wage can have on the overall economy. Family dynamics has become a great contributor to American poverty. Increased divorce rates, falling marriage rates, and rising of unwedded births more than doubled the amount of children living with a single mothers. Furthermore, a household headed by a female living in poverty is five times greater than a married couple living in poverty (Haskins & Sawhill, 2007).

Lastly, government spending affects the poverty rate in America. The 1960s marked a time where programs were created to reduce and lessen poverty effect have grown. But, poverty was reduced less than desired. Spending grew from $89 billion to $585 billion due to substantial health care rates. American poverty has become an issue due to the economy and low wages among the American people. This problem has contributed to the family dynamic and changes in depositions. Although government spending has grown substantially, poverty has not been a priority with government spending.

Poverty would greatly benefit from social change research. Social change research is conducted for the betterment of individuals and the world around them. It can be conducted on a communal, institutional, or national level. Most importantly, the participatory (action) research of social change research can help reduce poverty rates. In participatory (action) research methods, researchers become a part of the community or social situation and fully learn about issue(s) within the community (PSU, 2014). When dealing with poverty, it is imperative for researcher to learn from individuals within the community and how they can overcome poverty. A needs assessment will be sufficient to know exactly what needs to be improved. For example, the economy may contribute to poverty, not being a single mother. Therefore, addressing family deposition would not be an effective method for the individual. Participatory research seeks to understand and improve society by changing it. The researchers and participants can improve and understand adapted behaviors and situations they engage in through self reflective inquiry (Baum, MacDougall, & Smith, 2006). According to Baum and colleagues (2006), the participatory method should be empowering and encourage people to have increased control of their lives. I believe fully and sincerely engaging people can bring a sense of belonging and empowerment. Thankfully, I have never experienced living in poverty, but I do volunteer at a homeless shelter and I have observed body language before and after I engage in verbal communication. It’s important to provide hope and encouragement, and an overall sense of empowerment. Through participatory (action) method, poverty can be reduced by immersing one’s self in the community and learn about the issues within the community.

Baum, F., MacDougall, C., & Smith, D. (2006). Participatory action research.Journal of epidemiology and community health, 60(10), 854.

Hargreaves, S. (2013). CNN Money. 15% of Americans living in Poverty. Retrieved from

Haskins, R. & Sawhill, I. (2007). The Future of Children. Journal Issue: The Next Generation of Antipoverty Policies. (17). 3-16.

The Pennsylvania State University. (2014). Psychology 424: Applied Social Psychology. Commentary. Lesson 13: Social Change/Participatory Research. Retrieved from

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