The Challenges of Poverty in the United States 

Poverty is a serious challenge facing the United States today. Though our nation is considered to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world, approximately 12.3% of Americans were living below the poverty line as of 2018. This has long-term and short-term effects on economic opportunity, access to basic needs, social mobility, and education levels across the country.

The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and yet, it faces a stark challenge: poverty. In 2018, more than 11% of Americans lived in poverty. Poverty affects all aspects of life—from health and education to housing and nutrition. It can leave families struggling to make ends meet and children growing up without access to basic needs.

 The consequences of poverty are significant as they can limit opportunities for individuals and entire communities.

Economic Opportunity:

People who live in poverty often have limited job opportunities or lack access to high-paying ones. Because they may not have enough money to pay for higher education or training programs, they face fewer chances of finding better jobs that would allow them to escape poverty. Additionally, those who are unemployed due to circumstances outside their control (such as a disability or illness) are at an even greater disadvantage.

Access to Basic Needs:

Poverty can also lead to a lack of access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, and healthcare. People who live in poverty may not be able to afford healthy groceries, may not have a safe place to live, or may be unable to access medical care for illnesses or injuries. This is especially true in rural areas of the United States that do not have adequate access to resources or services.

Social Mobility:

The cycle of poverty has long-term effects on social mobility across the United States. Children growing up in poverty are more likely to remain in poverty due to a lack of opportunity and resources available to them as adults. This can lead to a lack of upward mobility and create an environment where it is difficult for those in poverty to move up in the world.

Education Levels:

Poverty also has a major impact on education levels across the country. Children growing up in poverty often have less access to quality educational resources, which can lead to lower grades and test scores, fewer opportunities for college admission or scholarships, and a decreased likelihood of graduating high school. All of these factors contribute to the cycle of poverty that plagues many communities throughout America.

Impacts of Poverty on Health & Well-Being:

Living in poverty has serious impacts on physical wellbeing and mental health. People living below the poverty line often have limited access to health care services or lack insurance coverage which can lead to poorer health outcomes overall. Additionally, a lack of resources to acquire healthy food or engage in physical activity can lead to higher rates of chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. People living in poverty also have an increased risk of developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety due to stressors associated with their financial situation.

Impacts of Poverty on Education:

Poverty affects access to education in both direct and indirect ways. Children from low-income families may not be able to afford school supplies, participate in extra-curricular activities or receive assistance for college applications. Low family income can also cause students to miss out on educational opportunities due to a lack of transportation, childcare or time away from work obligations. In addition, the quality of schools which serve mostly poor communities can be inadequate and may not provide adequate resources for students to succeed.

Impacts of Poverty on Employment, Housing & Nutrition:

Poverty can limit access to jobs and hinder upward mobility. Low-income individuals often face discrimination in the job market due to their lack of education or experience. Poverty can also lead to unstable housing as families struggle to afford rent or mortgage payments, which can cause homelessness or substandard living conditions. Poor nutrition is a common issue among those living below the poverty line, with limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables, proteins and dairy products.


Poverty is a complex issue that affects all aspects of life—from health and education to employment, housing and nutrition. The impacts of poverty are far-reaching and can lead to increased risk of physical and mental health issues, limited access to education and employment opportunities, unstable housing situations and poor nutrition. It is essential that we continue to work together as a society to reduce poverty and its associated impacts on individuals, families and communities.