Poverty can be defined as the lack of basic needs such as food, clothing shelter, education, and health. Recent studies have shown that child poverty among children in the U.S. is rising steadily. In 2009, the rate of child poverty was at 20.7%, with 1.4 million children falling into poverty (CPA, 2012, 1). Besides this, the larger share of adolescents is living in poverty today than it was a decade ago. This is what has made many scholars dwell on the issue of poverty among the youth with a hope of finding the causes and looking at a possible solution to this detrimental problem.
The major reason why the issue of poverty among the youth is such a matter of concern is because, poor youth are especially vulnerable: this age is very critical to their future economic success. This is closely associated with the behaviors that these youths adopt at this stage in the name of poverty, which includes teen pregnancy, engaging in aberrant behavior, having children out of marriage, and dropping out of high school among other harmful behaviors. This means that any compromise in the development of the youth either because of poverty or other things such as abuse can seriously harm their lives leaving a long-term disadvantage, which is evident even during adulthood phases. Because of this, children need full support at this important phase to make sure that a proper transition from childhood, adolescence to adulthood is realized.
The issue of the rise of poverty among youth can mostly be attributed to the economic crisis faced by the nation since this has intensely affected the lives of many people. Report has it that four of every 10 American youth experiences economic hardships as a result of living in families with low income. Studies have shown that this affects some type of youth more than others, with Hispanic and black youth being at a higher risk of experiencing poverty than any other groups. In addition, studies done in the year 2000 showed that 14% of adolescents between the ages 0f 12-17 years were poor, which increased to 17% by 2009. This number becomes large if the threshold of poverty in families is increased to 100% since poor youths rose to 33% in 2000(CPA, 2012).
One of the main factors of measuring youth poverty is through studies of the homeless youth, which have shown that 2.3 to 3.5 Americans face homelessness every year. While many may think that this problem is linked to adults only, this is not the case since children and the youth also experience homelessness. A recent study done to determine this form of poverty among students in school district showed that there had been an increase in homeless students in 2008 from the number recorded in 2006 and 2007. This was mainly attributed to the economic crisis and to foreclosure of schools. This research divided people that experience homelessness into three groups; the unaccompanied youth, single adult and people with families and children. After this group was disintegrated, it was found out that runaway youth or unaccompanied youth ranged between 16- 22 years and were about 575,000 youths to 1.6 million youths. It was determined that the major cause of the homelessness of most of these youths is the presence of family conflicts since 46% of these youths had experienced abuse (Mallett & Rosenthal, 2009, 1165).
Researchers have backed this with researches with others that show that promoting positive youth development through the encouragement of high achievement, self-regulation and a positive self-concept is associated with desirable outcomes like delayed parenting, School connectedness, high school completion, career-oriented employment, low delinquency and postsecondary education enrollment. Amongst these, school connectedness helps to protect the youths against other adolescence risks apart from poverty.
From all these researches on youth poverty, it is clear that poverty affects the academic achievements of the youths, which in turn affects their future and the future of others (Eugene, 2012, 1). Poverty also imposes behavioral and emotional problems on the youths experiencing this, with some of these behaviors being difficulty to get along with others, conduct disorders and impulsiveness. Emotional problems include depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem among others. In addition, poverty among the youth may expose the youths to psychological behaviors, which may lead to mortality and injury.
Apart from this, poverty affects the physical health of the teenagers as a result of poor nutrition and inadequate food. This in turn causes chronic illnesses such as anemia, asthma, and pneumonia, which is also caused by the unhealthy environment that these youths are exposed to as a result of poverty (APA, 2012, 2). Other consequences of poverty in this category includes hunger or food insecurity or obesity also known as overweight, which comes as a result of lack of healthy foods and lack of access to sporting fields to keep fit. Other risky behaviors like early sexual habits and smoking can also be engaged into by the poor youth, leading to other serious problems such as HIV\Aids.
As seen from these effects, it is certain that this is not a problem of the youth alone, but a problem of the whole society. This is because the youths represent a large percentage of the entire population, which if not catered for, may affect the economy in a direct way. Unlike the poverty cycle is broken at this age; it will recur from one generation to another, and may cause economic problems.
In order to solve the problem of poverty in the youth, it is expedient to determine the causes of youth poverty and the possible solutions. According to the world development report of 2000 and 2001, poverty is caused by lack of assets and income. This may happen even though a person is employed, where he or she is underpaid and overworked. The second cause of poverty is powerlessness and noiselessness, which comes as a result of lack of voice independence and power leading to humiliation and exploitation among other things (World Bank 2012, 2). This is closely associated with gender inequality, where women face discrimination in the households and in firms leading to underdevelopment. The third cause of poverty is vulnerability, which in turn causes risks of poverty such as lack of food, environmental hazards, and risks of diseases. These causes affect the youths directly or indirectly through their parents or guardians. To solve the problem of poverty among the youth, the government and the concerned parties need to eliminate the listed causes. This is because a problem can only be solved if the causes are outlined and effective measures of solving the problem applied while using the causes as the targets.
In conclusion, poverty has serious effects on American youth that affects the entire society such as health issues, poor education, and bad habits. This poverty has a number of causes, which needs to be recognized as a first step towards eliminating this problem.