Poverty is a critical problem plaguing the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau (2014) in 2012, 15% of the population lived in poverty. In 2013, the poverty rate decreased to 14.5%. Despite this slight decrease, approximately 45.3 million Americans live in poverty. According to the University of Michigan (2014) the poverty rates in the United States has not been this high since 1993. However, it should further be noted that in 1993, 39.3 million people (or 15.1% of the population) lived in poverty. The increased number of people living in poverty demonstrates that poverty remains a growing problem throughout the country.
On a basic level, the social learning theory can be used to explain poverty in the United States. According to Manholmes & King (2013) the social learning theory asserts “that people learn from one another through observational learning, imitation and modeling” (p. 250). From this standpoint, children learn at an early age what types of roles they should pursue in life. Children that come from families with a low socio-economic status are more likely to inherit this socio-economic status from their parents. This is in part attributed to the fact that these children may be focused less on education and more on ensuring their basis needs are met. However, some research has demonstrated “that some low-income residents may benefit from a higher quality of life through greater informal social control and access to higher quality services” including education (Joseph, Chaskin & Webber, 2007, p. 369).
The social strain theory serves as another theoretical foundation in explaining poverty rates in the United States. According to the social strain theory, the inability to fulfill one’s basic needs leads to “feelings of relative deprivation” (Siegel, 2009, p. 204). The economic differences in areas that exhibit a low socio-economic status present differences in the quality of education the children receive as well as the ability to access economic opportunities.
In addressing the increasing poverty rates in the United States, this plan will focus on providing higher quality services to children and promoting the role of education. The need for children to access high quality education is critical in breaking the cycle of poverty (Joseph et. al., 2007). Furthermore, the ability to ensure children have their basic needs met so they can focus on their education and other prosocial attributes is critical in decreasing poverty. In order to do this, educational centers and after school programs will be implemented in an urban city that is predominantly low income. The educational centers will work with the state and federal government in order to ensure all children can access meals after school. The center will also offer classes to children to help them learn the value of education. The types of classes will vary based on the age group of the population and their skill level. Finally, the center will develop clubs and sports teams in order to encourage children to engage in prosocial behaviors.
The successes of the center will be widely attributed to diminishing the child’s exposure to financial strain, ensuring that children have their basic needs met, incorporate positive role models (which is a critical element of the social learning theory), and promote prosocial activities.