Tanner Lebo
Mrs. Jank
English 2
9 February 2018
The Disposablility of Those in Poverty in America

In today’s American society, poor people and those in poverty are viewed as being
disposable. There are multiple reasons that a person can be led to believe this. One is that many people have developed stereotypes towards the poor. Another is one’s belief of attribution of poverty or the causes of being poor. The program of welfare shows how the poor are viewed as disposable. Finally, the economy, namely the prices and costs that have risen substantially.

First of all, society’s stereotypes towards the poor show how those in poverty are viewed as disposable. The results of a study showed, “the adjectives that participants endorsed as being most descriptive of poor people were predominantly negative and included beliefs that the poor are uneducated, unmotivated or lazy, or in some way socially irresponsible,” (Cozzarelli, et al). Most people think of those in poverty as those things, and those might be some of the reasons why society sees them as disposable. Another stereotype is, “that the poor, especially the welfare poor, are unmotivated: They lack aspirations to ‘get ahead,’ or don’t work hard enough to succeed,” (Lichter and Crowley). Lots of people hold these stereotypes, as “The NPR/Kaiser/Kennedy School poll, in fact, showed that 52 percent of the American public believed that lack of motivation was a major cause of poverty,” (Lichter and Crowley). Evidently, many people believe these stereotypes. They do not think very highly of those with poverty. Society has deemed all the poor people as lazy, uneducated, and irresponsible. Because of these stereotypes, people are naturally going to neglect the poor and not think about them. This is how they are seen as disposable, because of the stereotypes, they are more likely to be thought of as worthless who should deal with their own problems, as it is their fault. If people think of them as lazy, they will not try to help them at all, and will make them deal with their own problems, mean that they can be thrown away and are disposable. The stereotypes of the poor prove how society views them, but their feelings toward the cause of a person’s poverty also shows why they are viewed as disposable.

Second, the viewpoint of the poor by America can be affected by the people’s feelings of attribution of poverty. In a study, they classified three sections of ways that cause poverty. One is “internal attributions (e.g., ‘lack of effort or laziness,’ ‘alcohol and drug abuse,’ ‘lack of thrift and proper money management.’” Another is “external attributions (e.g.,‘prejudice and discrimination in promotion and wages,’ ‘failure of industry to provide enough jobs,’ ‘a federal government that is insensitive to the plight of the poor.’” The last section was “cultural attributions (e.g.,‘the breakdown of the nuclear family,’ ‘being born into poverty,’ ‘having to attend bad schools.’” At the end of the study, they determined that “overall, internal attributions for poverty in women and men were more strongly endorsed than either external or cultural attributions,” (Cozzarelli, et al). That being said, it means that most people thought the cause of poverty was the person’s own fault, and nothing to do with the system being unfair. Apparently, the causes for poverty, especially with men, “seemed to center almost exclusively around issues related to lack of effort, motivation, or self-improvement,” (Cozzarelli, et al). This is another way, like the stereotypes, how the poor are seen as disposable. If those in poverty are only viewed as addicts and lazy people who cannot do anything for themselves, society will never help them. If they truly cannot help society, then the poor would be seen as disposable, and could be thrown away because of the lack of being a benefit to society. Another way is that society think they are poor because of their own bad choices. It is a psychological concept, “known as the‘ fundamental attribution error’. This is a natural tendency to see the behavior of others as being determined by their character – while excusing our own behavior based on circumstances,” (Szalavitz). Society thinks they are poor because of their own bad choices. They assume everything the poor people do is because of how bad and lazy they are, so they are disposable and do not have a place in society. Beliefs of attribution of poverty can be a reason that society sees the poor this way, but believe it or not, the view of disposability can also be seen through welfare.

Another way society sees the poor as disposable is through welfare. Welfare looks like a helpful solution, but it ends up placing those in poverty into a deep hole they can never escape. It might be all fine and dandy while they receive benefits, but once they start to earn more money “their various benefits might get cut off completely,” (Russell). They end up going into to debt and right back into welfare. Phil Harvey says in an article, “Oh no no no, you’re earning a little money now. We’re going to have to cut your benefits,” Harvey said, quoting what one caseworker said to a woman on welfare. “Now that woman is afraid to earn any money at all now, exactly the opposite of what I think people in poverty want to do to themselves, and exactly the opposite of what we would like them to be able to do,” (Russell). Welfare is doing the opposite of what it is supposed to do, and does not not help people get out. Society has lent a little money in to help the poor, but as soon as it helps them, they stop giving them money and leave the poor to pay for everything themselves. This is a way society can see them as disposable, because they take away the money from those is poverty. Welfare also provides another reason they can be viewed as disposable, because, “Welfare recipients often get a reputation as lazy people that live off taxpayers and don’t have any interest in working,” (Russell). Once again, society shows how they view those in poverty as lazy who do not want to work, therefore disposable because society will not help people if they do not think they deserve help. The endless pit of welfare is a way that society views the poor as disposable, however, the economy and costs of things are also reasons people see the poor as disposable.

Finally, the way that the economy is nowadays, through housing and schooling and medical care. The fact is, that everything is more expensive, making it very hard for the poor to function in a society and get out of poverty. Because of this, “many people from the lower class simply cannot afford to attend college and earn a degree,” (“Causes of Poverty in America.”). If they cannot afford any further education, there’s no way they could go to college study a specific area to make money and escape poverty. But Congress is hurting the problem too, when they “cut spending on K-12 public schools by nearly 20% since 2011. Somehow, many schools have still kept the satisfaction of parents throughout those years, but I can’t imagine that the schooling is as effective when it’s being funded with 20% fewer dollars,” (“9 Top Reasons for Poverty in the United States.”). If those in poverty cannot even trust the public school system to be effective and give them schooling to make a living, how will they have any chance of escaping poverty? But costs have continued to rise, because “since 1978, medical costs have increased by 600%, which is HUGE, but the cost of education has increased by almost double that….1,120%,” (“9 Top Reasons for Poverty in the United States.”). Obviously, the medical costs have risen a ton, making it a huge hassle for anyone in poverty to be ill or need medical attention, because that would be way too much money to afford that. But also, the cost of education has risen by 1,120%, which is an insane amount, and really makes a huge difference when it comes for paying for education with those in poverty. The last way is housing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “families across the country would need to earn a “housing wage” of $15.37 an hour to afford a two- bedroom apartment at the average fair market rent,” (“Causes of Poverty in America.”). That is really hard to afford, and even if a person could, there’s many other expenses to take into consideration in addition to the house, which just means making more money. One would think that America has raised the prices because of how many people buy it, and so maybe people’s wages have gone up also, but that has not happened. The wages have not increased even though “since 2007, the Consumer Price Index has increased by over 17%, meaning the cost of necessary goods has increased substantially while the lowest-fifth’s income has decreased,” (“9 Top Reasons for Poverty in the United States.”). Everything is costing more, yet the income of those in poverty, the ‘lowest-fifth’ of the nation, has gone down, making it even harder to escape poverty. America is seeing poor people as disposable because of the focus on economy and making it better, by raising the prices of everything and killing poor peoples chances of ever escaping of poverty. Society views them as being able to throw away, because they do not help the economy, so society will not help them either, and just make things harder for them. In this way they are disposable, because with the economy always rising, those in poverty are just ting left behind, and America is not doing much to prevent that.

In conclusion, America views poor people as disposable. This can be seen through their feelings and stereotypes of those in poverty. It can also be seen in their beliefs of attribution of poverty. Even though there is a welfare system in place to help the poor, with the benefits cliff in place where they lose all benefits after gaining wages, it makes it impossible to escape poverty. Therefore society has only made it easy enough to give them a little benefits, but takes them away and will not continue to help them. Finally, the economy and the costs of functioning in this society explains why poor people are thought to have no place in that society. They are considered disposable by everyone around them, and able to be thrown away. Although some many not like this, it is the reality we face in America today.

Works Cited

“9 Top Reasons for Poverty in the United States.” Life And My Finances, 17 May 2017,

“Causes of Poverty in America.” PursueGOD.org, www.pursuegod.org/causes-of-poverty-in-

Cozzarelli, Catherine, et al. “Do Middle-Class Students Perceive Poor Women
and Poor Men Differently?.” Sex Roles, vol. 47, no. 11-12, Dec. 2002, p. 519. EBSCOhost, http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dludden/GenderPovertyAttitudesUS.htm

Lauter, David. “How do Americans View Poverty? Many blue-collar whites, key
to Trump, criticize poor people as lazy and content to stay on welfare.” Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-pol-poverty-poll/

Lichter, Daniel T, and Crowley, Martha L. Crowley “American Attitudes about
Poverty and the Poor.” Population Reference Bureau. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2002/AmericanAttitudesAboutPovertyandthePoor.aspx

Rehner, Tim, et al. “Mississippi Social Workers’ Attitudes toward Poverty and
the Poor.” Journal of Social Work Education, vol. 33, no. 1, Winter97, p. 131. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f6h&AN=9703102477.

Russell, Jason. “How welfare hurts those it’s supposed to help.” Washington Examiner. http://

Szalavitz, Maia. “Why do we think poor people are poor because of their own
bad choices?” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/05/us-inequality-poor-people-bad-choices-wealthy-bias

Tagler, Michael J. and Catherine Cozzarelli. “Feelings toward the Poor and
Beliefs about the Causes of Poverty: The Role of Affective-Cognitive Consistency in Help-Giving.” Journal of Psychology, vol. 147, no. 6, Nov. 2013, p. 517. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/00223980.2012.718721.

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