First let me take a minute to put on my heavy boots because I’m about to step on some toes again! Okay they’re on and I’m stomping so watch your feet! My only disclaimer is that I myself was (still am sorta) poor and many of my family members live near or below the poverty line. I know poor.
Let us first consider some statistics. Statistics tell us that persons under the age of 18 are more likely to be impoverished. “In 2001 the poverty rate for minors in the United States was the highest in the industrialized world, with 14.8% of all minors and 30% of African American minors living below the poverty threshold. Additionally, the standard of living for those in the bottom 10% was lower in the U.S. than in any other developed nation except the United Kingdom, which had the lowest standard of living for impoverished children. In 2006, the poverty rate for minors in the United States was 21.9% -the highest child poverty rate in the developed world.”*
It’s awful that fresh from the uterus—before a child takes his first cry--he is at a horrible disadvantage. Having done nothing to merit his circumstance, such a child begins his life at a negative. What’s more, in a third world country I could understand why so many children are born into poverty—these people don’t have access to prophylactics, contraception or even abortions that we take for granted of here in this rich nation. We have all these pills and devices and folk who are not mature enough or economically sound enough are multiplying like rabbits! Consequently, poverty doesn’t go away, it just continues to the next generation and the next…
So who’s responsible for the aforementioned poverty levels? Our society certainly must take its share of the blame. We live in nation where a person of little talent can sing and dance very badly, we label such an antic entertainment, and we allow them to make millions of dollars. We live in a nation where a person can read lines off of a teleprompter, swear, and pretend to dodge bullets or whatever and we label him an actor and thus give him millions of dollars. We live in a nation where a person can pose nicely, take pretty pictures, or throw a ball across a field or in a hoop and he is rewarded for such “skill” with—you guessed it—millions of dollars. Sure the statistics of this happening are astronomical and I am talking about only a minority of people, but the fact that such people can have 17 houses, while other people perform backbreaking labor and barely earn minimum wage is preposterous! Society is NOT fair. It never has been and it never will be—though I certainly don’t advocate that we stop striving for fairness.
That said, we have to find a way to work within an unfair society. It’s a brutal reality. So why bring children into it in the first place (more about that in future posts) especially when you don’t have anything to give him but more poverty. It is, as one writer puts it, an inheritance of loss. Moreover, it is morally and socially irresponsible to bring a child into this world without the financial capacity to take care of it. It should be every parents desire to give a child a standard of living at least slightly better than the one he had. It should be, but it isn’t. Exacerbating the matter, many people believe that the government was designed to take care of their children. Yeah, I went there!
What’s going on? Economically, prices are skyrocketing, jobs and careers are uncertain and it seems everybody is in debt. Even college-educated people are subjected to menial jobs and subsequent low wages because competitive ones have become, well, inexorably more competitive. It is for those reasons that I believe that children should be planned. They should come after and only after the parents are married and in a financial position to support them. So many people today are participating in premarital sex and then calling it an “accident” when they get pregnant. There should be no “accident” kids! If you are having sex without contraception than it wasn’t an accident! The best situation for the child is one in which he has two parents who are legally and spiritually bound together—that’s two incomes. Statistics show us that the number of income earners largely affects household income. That seems pretty self-evident to me. Perhaps it’s not so for many people. Getting pregnant without first considering the quality of life of the child is selfishness that borders on narcissism. What real parent doesn’t put the needs of his child before his own and a child needs to be provided for and nurtured. That costs money. How much? Well according to the US Department of Agriculture $270,000 from birth to age 17. And that number doesn’t even include extra’s like college tuition.**
Now I’m not saying you have to be Bill Gates in order to have a child. Nor am I implying that a financially established person can’t experience a dry period. What I am saying is people should strive to insure a good quality of life for their child and that costs money. This is a capitalists system—we have to work within it even when it’s not fair! I don’t believe all poor people are lazy, immoral slackers. Many are not, but just because it’s not your fault that you are poor doesn’t mean you should bring another life in this world to suffer poverty with you. One should strive to legally attain economic stability. This is not in any way easy, especially if you were born poor yourself, but it is necessary.
Once more I am dismayed by what I am seeing. I see so many women with 4 and 5 different kids by different dads and no way of taking care of them, accept through welfare. Inevitably, these kids will then grow up to have kids by different moms and dads and their kids and theirs, most being supported by taxpayers’ dollars. I shudder to even mention how many of these poor children are born to teenage mothers or how many of these children will grow to be adults that fall into a life of crime. Or how many will be the victims of it. I shudder to think how many of these children will be born without a father. How many will grow up to become substance abusers. I shudder when I think about the difficult life, particularly the educational and health disparities that these children will fall victim to. I shudder to think how many of these children won’t live to grow up at all. All because their parents were too selfish to plan appropriately.
Yes, I believe in social responsibility and I mentioned that society is to blame for its role in poverty—consider inadequate jobs, a shockingly impossible minimum wage, and institutional racism--but I also believe in personal responsibly. Lets consider that two strong correlates of poverty are lack of educational attainment and skill and substance abuse. Many people living in the hood are fifth and sixth generation poor people. I know I was. I can’t even tell you how far the poor goes back in my own family. So the cycle repeats over and over and over again unendingly. People are responsible for their own plight. Actions have consequences. Ultimately, we are what we make ourselves to be….
The other day I spoke with a young unmarried mother of a one-year-old. She still lives at home, is not in college, and has no job prospects. She's not a bad peron. To the contrary, she is attractive, smart, and good-natured. “What do you plan to do with your life, especially since you have this young child?” I asked. She looked down at the ground, confused and unsure. Then she shrugged. “I don’t know,” she answered honestly. I could only sympathize with how difficult it’s going to be for her and her baby. I sighed, exasperated.
*Thus saith the awesome wikipedia. Check it out for yourself.
for more information