A Call To Challenge Deep Poverty

It is said that the poor will always be with us.  The truth in that understanding can be for some, a reason to not put much emphasis on addressing it, in other words, “Why bother?”  For others, it becomes a reason or call to action exploring who is identified as poor, why people remain poor, and how to disrupt cycles, and bring focus to factors that shape what poverty looks like for far too many people.  Although poverty is a constant, what has become increasingly unacceptable is the number of people experiencing it, and why. According to the Center for Poverty Research (UC Davis), counted among people living in poverty are a higher percentage of children under 18, and people who identify as Black and Hispanic.  This lifts other societal considerations such as the role of gender, meeting k-12 educational needs, and maintaining housing stability for people identified as poor.

A few weeks ago, the American Psychological Association (APA) brought greater awareness to the issue of poverty in the United States at the 2019 annual conference, where president Dr. Rosie Phillips Davis shared how the field of psychology could assist with solutions.  The APA through its Deep Poverty Initiative is working to change how poverty is addressed in ways that can impact us all.  We were reminded that many professionals have been the first in their families to attend a college or university; utilizing education as a path out of poverty. Many professionals have experienced economic uncertainty, housing insecurity, or homelessness at some point in their life span.  Being transparent with such experiences brings depth to understanding and addressing the similar lived experience of others.

The Deep Poverty Initiative brings particular focus to people surviving below 50 percent of poverty thresholds. In 2016 that translated to a single person under age 65 with an income below $6,243 and a family of four $12, 169.50 per year. Today, with people working more than one job to make ends meet, increasing lack of affordable and low-income housing, and push for a livable wage, those numbers are more reflective of the increasing crisis we are in. People in deep poverty are at a higher risk to experience violence, anxiety, depression, and homelessness.

The most important thing to know about poverty is that we all can do something about it. To that end the APA is asking each of us to join the 5-Week Deep Poverty Challenge.   The challenge helps all of us examine our biases, attitudes, and stigma towards those who identify as poor, particularly those in deep poverty.  It also helps all of us to create partnerships with community groups and organizations that advocate for people in deep poverty, and empowers people in deep poverty to have a voice, and advocate for systemic change.  The challenge begins September 10th, when the U.S. Census Bureau national poverty indicators are released, and will end on October 17th, World Poverty Day.  So, what can we do to CHALLENGE DEEP POVERTY? To find out, take the pledge to join our 5-Week Deep Poverty Challenge.

DeBorah Gilbert White