'Our safety net is very weak': Sociologist details reasons why poverty is so widespread in America
For decades, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has been arguing that the United States should take a close look at the economic models used in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Sanders isn't saying that those countries have totally eliminated poverty, rather that he believes that they have done a much better job of reducing it than his own country.
The U.S. is among the most unequal countries in the developed world. Conservatives and libertarians often point out that countless immigrants from Latin America, the Middle East and Africa are anxious to move to the U.S. but don't mention all the Europeans and Australians who believe that living in the U.S. would be a step down economically — especially if they have health problems.
Sociologist/author Mark R. Rank has spent decades writing about inequality among Americans, and he examines the United States' rampant poverty in his most recent book, "The Poverty Paradox: Understanding Economic Hardship Amid American Prosperity."
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In an article published on May 11, The Guardian's David Smith lays out some reasons why Rank believes it is so easy to become or stay poor in the United States. Smith notes that according to Census Bureau figures, the U.S. had an 11.6 percent poverty rate in 2021.
Rank cites a lack of universal health care, stagnant wages and inadequate social programs as key factors.
The sociologist/author told The Guardian, "Our safety net in the United States is very weak, and so, when…. things happen, people are at real risk of falling into poverty. When you think about what can happen to me over the next 20 or 30 years, it's not unusual to lose a job or to get sick or to have something like this happen. And that's why the (poverty) rates are so high over a long period of time."
In terms of economic mobility, Rank argues, the U.S. fares much worse than many other developed countries.
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Rank told The Guardian, "In the United States, we're largely about rugged individualism. You do it on your own. You work hard. The idea is that there are opportunities to take advantage of. But the downside is you're also on your own and, when stuff goes bad, it's like well, that's the way it goes…. What's happened is that as the income distribution has gotten wider, the rungs on the ladder have gotten further apart, making it more difficult for people to move up."
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The Guardian's full report continues here.
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