Recent census data states there has been a decline in poverty in the U.S. over the last two years. (1) A healthy economy is certainly necessary to fight poverty, but history suggests that public policy reforms are also needed to precipitate substantial declines in the poverty rate. Research shows that policies directly linked to work, like the earned income tax credit or childcare assistance, can increase employment.
Education and training providers working more closely with private employers to ensure that workers are trained to meet today's labor market demands. (2) So how do we equip the next generation to be prepared for the workforce when they are challenged both economically and educationally? Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, President/CEO of the United Way of the Mid-South, shares his insight on generational poverty and approaches to breaking the cycle.
Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson, President /CEO of the United Way of the Mid-South, speaks on generational poverty.
Donna Beegle conducted a study of college graduates who grew up in three generations of poverty. In general, participants articulated that they experienced great shame and humiliation growing up in poverty. They believed that outsiders perceived poverty to be their fault. Participants faced physical, emotional, sociological, and economic barriers to literacy and education at all stages of their lives.
Education continues to be considered the best escape from poverty. Schools are sometimes the first formal social agency a child personally experiences. It is there that self-worth is framed around clashes with formal communication styles (oral vs. written), feeling of belonging or inadequacies based on appearance, parents' jobs, housing, food, money, healthcare and control over one's life.
Some factors that shifted participants' perceptions of self and their potential for academic success include teachers who are sensitive to the realities of poverty, willing to create emotional and physical spaces for learning opportunities and who incentivize lessons creatively; examination of the social culture of schools and leadership attitudes about generational poverty; and exposure to educated professionals and mentors through field trips, speakers and strong partnerships with agencies and organizations. (3)
Until the authentic voices of the impoverished are heard from their perspectives, we cannot address social-class differences that create barriers to breaking the cycle of poverty.