Poverty in Houston, Texas

1569 words | 6 page(s)

Poverty is among the most disabling factors in human life. It is defined as the state of lack of material things taking economic, social and political angles. Poverty has long been a global challenge with countries and continents uniting in the fight. In many cases, poverty is highly attributable to social, political and economic inequalities that define the modern societies. In Houston, Texas, an estimated 23 percent of the 2,233,310 residents are living under the poverty line. This is despite the city posting economic growth rates. The poverty levels are an indicator that the benefits attained in other sections of the economy seldom reach the lower tier citizens in the city. The poverty rates can be attributed to the levels of disparity in terms of education and skills in the city. Only 29.2 percent of the people here are holders of a bachelor’s degree and above. The jobs available here require highly skilled and educated individuals with a majority of these jobs being in the engineering and healthcare sections. This results in individuals that lack the requisite skills and education being rendered jobless or turning to the low paying low paying jobs. As of March 2015, a reported 3.9 percent of the residents were unemployed. A vast majority of people here work in the informal sectors with the city’s average hourly pay rate being placed at $24.44.

Extent of problem
The numbers for people living under the poverty line in the city translate to over 513,662 people. Bringing the national race poverty index figures into the Houston context means that of the estimated 1,060,491 white people living in Houston, 104,988 of them live under the poverty line. This translates to 125,626 black, 15,292 Asians, and 244,632 Hispanic people live in abject poverty (houstontx.gov). These figures can further be analyzed on the basis of gender to represent the 50.1 male and 49.9 female citizens of the city. On average, a Houston household is to 2.69 persons with their annual per capita income being $27,305. There is an almost even geographic distribution of poverty in Houston’s high population areas. Localities such as Trinity have over 49 percent of residents living in poverty. Below is a graphical representation of the major poverty areas in the city (Bloch, Matthew and Giratikanon).

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From the graph, it is evident that indeed the levels of poverty in areas of high concentration is significantly high with some regions scoring over 60 percent on the poverty index figure. The effects of poverty can be felt in the living standards of the people in the city. Many are leading poor lives without permanent housing and other social amenities. The number of homeless people in Houston owing to poverty is at alarming levels. Further, the poverty levels have had an impact on the education of residents of the city. Students hailing from low-income homes have continuously reported lower grades the illiteracy levels in the city are also directly attributable the poverty. To the poor in Houston lack of food is also a challenge that they face on a daily basis with many opting to beg or rely on government provided aid. Also, the poor have reduced access to healthcare facilities with many opting to go without the services.

Poverty is a bigger challenge than most other challenges faced by human beings. This is based on the multidimensional side effects that come along with poverty. Just by being poor, a person faces a myriad of other challenges ranging from food, health, education and shelter well-being. The demeaning and devaluing of the human life associated with poverty leads to a complete loss of human dignity. This is more so given things that destitute people turn to such as crime and begging. If deliberate efforts to fight poverty are not initiated and carefully monitored, in the recent future the problem will become worse and spread to the neighboring states and eventually to the entire nation. Given that poverty maintains a direct relationship with crime and mortality, these should anticipated to rise proportionally with the poverty levels. Further, the reliance on the government for aid and other amenities is bound to increase which with time will become an unbearable burden for both the government and other citizens. The bureau for justice statistics found that (Berzofsky, Harrell and Lance):

a. People living below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) reported 39.8 per thousand cases of violent victimization. This rate is more than twice the figure for those living above the FPL who reported 16.9 per 1000 cases.
b. The rate of violence involving firearms for persons below the FPL was 3.5 per 1000 compared to 0.8 per 1000 for those above the FPL.
c. The violent victimization rate for people living in urban areas 43.9 per 1000 is almost similar to the poor in rural areas at 38.8 per 1000.

Literature review
Stricker, Frank. Why America Lost the War on Poverty – and How to Win It: Easyread Edition. ReadHowYouWant.com, 2009. Print.
Stricker proposes business or economic growth as the ultimate solution to poverty reduction. In his view, the creation of an enabling business environment coupled with attractive incentives leads to the growth of business. The growth of these enterprises and increase in investment in turn results to the development of employment opportunities that absorb the poor folks and serve to eliminate the poverty menace.

Polak, Paul. Out of poverty: what works when traditional approaches fail. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008. Print.
The author presents a twelve-point interactive process that aims to provide a practical solution to poverty. In his business-oriented view, it is essential that before developing any solution one interacts with those afflicted to understand better their situation. This is learning process that ought to be approached with an open mind that helps in complete understanding of the issue at hand. After learning, one then proceeds to develop a context-specific solution to the problem that involves setting of prices and cost targets.

As a remedial measure, the government should put more emphasis on the education of the poor people in Houston. Education will act as an empowerment factor that will result in employment in the formal and informal sector as well as the possibility of self-employment. To those beyond the regular education ages, the government ought to embark on a serious training and development initiative to arm these citizens with practical skills that can translate into employment opportunities.

Given the high number of manufacturing entities in the city, training, and development of the Houston poor adults will indeed translate into a drop in the poverty rates almost immediately. To those unable to secure opportunities in the private sector, the government should plan to engage their skills at different statutory institutions as a way of supporting these people. This is expected to have a similar effect on all other variables that are directly related to poverty. This solution presents a better success rate than the adoption of aid and other support systems. Though the support systems seem functional, they do not in any way work towards the development of the individual or improvement of their status but rather work to maintain the status quo. Development of these people on the other hand, is the sure long term solution to reducing and eradicating poverty in the Houston societies (Omoniyi).

Studies conducted in Africa by the World Bank have indicated that just four years of education aid people in increasing agricultural productivity through the development of their productive and creative capacities (Special). A great success story in the “bridges out of poverty” initiative by the aha process. The city of Muskogee, Oklahoma is among the places that have adopted the empowerment approach to fighting poverty. Indeed, there have been positive results for most of the involved parties with many securing reasonable employment and other getting support for their private initiatives.

Educational has been listed as the first weapon in the fight against poverty. Similar to other forms of research, this has been reached through analysis of factors that work and those that do not work. Logically put, education increases, the creativity, awareness and understanding levels of individuals. These three factors are essential to problem solution and thus I can say training increases the problem solution capacity of an individual. With this ability, the individual can be deemed abled to innovate and figure out problems they face. The application of their problem solving ability thus leads a person to become better in whatever aspect they apply the skill gained through education. The training solution can thus be proven efficient through the achievements attained from problem solution and also given it is a long term approach with continuous ripple benefits that can be passed on. The solution also remains ethical and equitable as these very factors remain enshrined in the rules and code of ethics for all educators.

  • Berzofsky, Marcus, et al. Household Poverty and Nonfatal Violent Victimization, 2008–2012. 18 November 2014. 17 June 2015. .
  • Bloch, Matthew, Matthew Ericson and Tom Giratikanon. “Mapping Poverty in America: Data from the Census Bureau show where the poor live,” 4 January 2014. nytimes.com. Document. 17 June 2015.
  • houstontx.gov. Demographic Data. 17 June 2015. Web. 17 June 2015. .
  • Omoniyi, M.B.I. “The role of education in poverty alleviation and Economic development: a theoretical perspective and counselling.” British Journal of Arts and Social Sciences II.2046-9578 (2013): 178. Print.
  • Polak, Paul. Out of poverty: what works when traditional approaches fail. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008. Print.
  • Special, Beary. The Key To Eradicate Poverty and Hunger – Basic Education. 8 October 2006. Web. 17 June 2015. .
  • Stricker, Frank. Why America Lost the War on Poverty – and How to Win It: Easyread Edition. ReadHowYouWant.com, 2009. Print.

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