15 October 2018
Rich vs. Poor in America
America; “the land of opportunity.” We hear this phrase constantly as America is known to treat citizens equally; a place where freedom and justice are “guaranteed.” Behind all the motivational notions behind the thought of America, there are injustices that are not protected by the constitution. One of the clearest depictions of this are between the rich and the poor. Mainstream news outlets such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have made people aware of the alarming truth that the United States is unequal, at least in economic terms.
One of the most common places in which we see a form of inequality is in the health care system. Even if you cannot afford a private health insurance, you can apply for the government issued insurance most widely known as Medicaid or Medicare. However, these “public” health insurances often do not cover things that are not in primary care. When coverage is not provided, a lot of patients will not continue their treatment while some will not even begin the recommended treatment. “For example, 19% of non-elderly adults in the USA who received prescriptions in 2014 (after full implementation of the Affordable Care Act ACA), could not afford to fill them” (Dickman, et al., 1432). Due to the unforeseen circumstances, the lower class is subjected but not limited to “lower life expectancies, worse health habits, and higher disease rates” (Gilbert 16).
The gap between the rich and the poor began to widen drastically after the stock market crashed which then resulted in the Great Depression, which began in 1929 and ended in 1941. As the economic inequality increased, so did the inequality in health. “Almost every chronic condition, from stroke to heart disease and arthritis, follows a predictable pattern of rising prevalence with declining income” (Dickman, et al., 1431). Without the financial support to treat these diseases, the poor are faced to live in a state in which their health is constantly declining. The inner city of Flint, MI is just one of the many places in America where income inequality and poor health meet. In 2012, Flint, MI changed its water source where residents were exposed to dangerously high amounts of lead and other pollutants. The city did not treat the water with anti-corrosive which is the main reason as to why the lead got to the residents in the first place. The people of Flint now face the health ramifications of this incident. As the health effects of lead exposure are not seen immediately, some of the effects may take years or even decades to show up. “Lead exposure lowers IQ levels, creating cognitive and behavioral issues for children in the future. Lead exposure is difficult to treat because it is an irreversible neurotoxin” (Raphelson). Access to a balanced diet are vital when dealing with the effects of lead consumption. People affected by this do not have a way of providing the health care and the treatments necessary to improve their health conditions.
Flint is just one example out of many that leaves the bottom of the social class deprived of a good bill of health. “Poverty itself causes ill health, compromises non-medical social supports and resources that improve medical outcomes, and is associated with worse satisfaction with care” (Dickman, et al., 1435). The poor have a lower life expectancy in comparison with the rich. This is primarily due to the cost of health care and treatments for diseases.
When it comes to the upper class, they are very advantaged in the health care system. They have access to better facilities where the care may be more specialized to the patient. Being that they can afford functional treatments, it has been seen that there are “lower obesity rates, lower tobacco usage, better nutrition, and higher rates of preventative health care” (Gilbert, 16). A study done by the CDC in 2005 says that “twenty-nine percent of American adults below the poverty line smoked in 2004; less than 21 percent of those above the poverty line smoked”. Disease rates have been linked to income in studies. A study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 1996 showed that “men with the lowest incomes faced an age-adjusted death rate 109 percent higher than those with the highest incomes” (Gilbert, 17).
Being at the top of the socioeconomic ladder, the rich in America have no problems in being able to afford to be healthy. As expected, the rich keep up with their periodical check-ups and procedures. It has been known that the rich receive a “better” form of health care when compared to the poor. By being able to afford all the necessary as well as unnecessary medical procedures and bills, the rich can go to the most innovative hospitals and clinics to achieve the best possible results.
Another place in which we can see the economic injustice in America is in education. When reflecting on the distribution of education, one can see that it has been far from systematic. In the lower class, especially in inner cities, residents are often subjected to obtain an education that perhaps does not meet the standards. A lot of the times, students’ families are so focused on trying to get the basic necessities of life that education is not a priority in their household. Typically, standardized test scores are higher in more upscale neighborhoods when compared to a rugged district. This is partially due to the fact that inner cities cannot fund certain things that will make their educational environment thrive which would thus result in academic success for students.
During the application process and in surveys, colleges often ask students their race as well as their socioeconomic status. “Institutions of higher learning vary, however, even selective institutions, in the extent to which low- income students are represented in the student body” (Brown, et al., 69). Having less educational opportunities makes it very difficult for a student in the lower class to pursue a higher education. Even when students decide to go to college, a lot drop out because of the high-priced tuition. On the other hand, students that pertain to “rich” families are able to go through college and pursue an elite education without any financial burdens. By receiving a great education from a top school, finding a job will not be hard.
By being able to find good jobs quickly, the rich are staying in the top twenty percent of the socioeconomic class while working less. This also gives the rich to invest in stocks and in other things such as a small business and companies. Investing is one way that people can take part in the country’s economy. Working less also allows for these elite graduates to go back to school and pursue a higher degree. By obtaining a master’s or a Ph.D., these individuals put themselves in a position to make even more money.
All in all, there is no equal opportunity in America between the social classes. There are injustices affecting the poor and benefiting the rich; these injustices are seen through the country’s health care system and education distribution. Medicaid and Medicare are allowing for health injustices to go down. Many physicians are also working on advancing in health justice. In regard to education, there not been many programs or aid in trying to close the gap between the rich and the poor. Socioeconomic injustices show that the system in the land of the free is skewed and unfair. As the world looks up to America, they should expect equality in all forms when coming to the U.S.
Brown, Sarah E., et al. “Income and Access to Higher Education: Are High Quality Universities Becoming More or Less Elite? A Longitudinal Case Study of Admissions at UW-Madison.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 2, no. 1, 2016, pp. 69–89. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/rsf.2016.2.1.04.
Dickman, Samuel L., David U. Himmelstein, and Steffie Woolhandler. “Inequality and the Health-Care System in the USA.” The Lancet, vol. 389, no. 10077, 2017, pp. 1431-1441. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.felician.edu/login?url=https://ezproxy.felician.edu:2633/docview/1885093753?accountid=10819, doi:http://ezproxy.felician.edu:2301/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30398-7.
Gilbert, Geoffrey. “Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook.” Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, Inc, 2008. Print.
Raphelson, Samantha. “Flint Residents Confront Long-Term Health Issues After Lead Exposure.” NPR, NPR, 31 Oct. 2017, www.npr.org/2017/10/31/561155244/flint-residents-confront-long-term-health-issues-after-lead-exposure.