What is poverty and how is it measured?

Poverty, or the state of being extremely poor is a widespread issue here in the United States. To be considered ‘living in poverty’ a household must be below a set income threshold that varies by family size. The set threshold for each family size is updated annually to reflect inflation and is consistent across the country. The Census Bureau determines poverty by family income before taxes– it does not include any government assistance such as subsidized housing, food stamps, or enrollment in programs such as Medicaid. The poverty measure also doesn’t account for cost of living variances or any other factors outside of income, often making the measure heavily skewed and inaccurate to measure who is truly impoverished.


What is Generational Poverty?

Generational poverty is a term to describe a family who has been considered impoverished for two or more generations. Families stuck in the cycle of generational poverty often have many commonalities that may include illiteracy, lack of land ownership, lack of education, and lack of job stability.


How Does Poverty Affect Youth?

Studies about poverty are in agreement: Poverty can have devastating impacts on our youth and their development. Multiple sources have stated children in poverty are more likely to experience hopelessness, illiteracy,  behavioral/social/emotional issues, a survivalist mindset, and even poor health. Youth in poverty are also more likely to suffer from criminality, hunger, illness and unemployment. To top it off youth in poverty are more likely to face rough home situations which can worsen other issues.


Education is Fundamental

Education, or lack thereof,  has been found to be both a leading cause of and solution to poverty. To begin with, lack of early childhood education due to an inability to afford childcare or other resources can hinder a child’s cognitive development which may damage their future educational success. Often poverty can also lead to youth dropping out of school to help support their family by finding a job: This may hinder their ability to later get a job stable enough to help pull them out of poverty, thus trapping them in the cycle of poverty. A study of generational poverty from Yale University insists education is the answer to escaping generational poverty. The same study noted, “Schools are really the only places where students can learn about the choices and rules of the middle class or have access to people who are willing and able to help them.” Youth in poverty lack equal access to education and resources to help pull them out of poverty, or ever learn that is a viable option for their life.  Ending poverty requires educated parents to help raise educated children, and the time to step up to help is now.


The Matthews House mission is to empower youth and families by building trusting relationships and providing resources to disrupt the cycles of poverty and abuse. We work toward this by walking alongside families and youth as they set goals and overcome obstacles in these main areas: education, housing, employment, well-being, and life skills.

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