Poverty exists here too? Gasp!

The first result for a Google search of “How to fight poverty in your own town” highlights exactly the problem I have been struggling to capture for the past few days. The result, a New York Times article titled “How to Fight Poverty: 8 Programs That Work,” seemed promising at first glance. Finally, I stumbled upon a reliable means of fighting poverty that exists geographically close to me. After scanning the article’s globe graphic and first few paragraphs, however, I realized I had just found another of the same: an internationally focused antipoverty tirade that treats the problem as though it only exists overseas. Although foreign aid aimed at tackling poverty around the world is an important cause, the global focus on poverty often leads us to forget that it exists much closer to home. Engaging with domestic issues to understand the problems that plague American society is vital. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof worries, “American university students think that it’s cool and glamorous to spend a summer fighting poverty in Africa, but have much less interest in mentoring disadvantaged kids across the tracks in their own cities.” In a time when people in this country seem disconnected and misunderstood, it is our duty to be aware of the issues that affect out neighbors and understand the best ways to address those hardships. Before we discuss poverty, we should outline exactly what it is. This may seem simple, but the concept of poverty and what actually makes someone poor is quite complicated. Although giving a somewhat clichéd Miriam-Webster dictionary definition may seem unnecessary, I always find it helpful to give words precise meanings. So, here goes. Poverty is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” This definition logically leads to the question of what a “usual or socially acceptable amount” of assets is and who defined this quantity. Poverty determination is based upon thresholds calculated by Molly Orshansky of the Social Security Administration. In 1963, Orshansky concluded that, if they purchase the cheapest food plan as determined by the Department of Agriculture, Americans spend about one third of their post-tax income on food. Thus, to determine the minimum amount of money a family needs, she multiplied that number by three. She then made a matrix of incomes that takes into account additional factors such as family size, age, and gender. The United States Census Bureau adopted these thresholds as the Official Poverty Measure (OPM) for determining poverty levels. Over time, the numbers have been adjusted for inflation, but never for changes in the standard of living. Due to this somewhat arbitrary and outdated method for calculating poverty thresholds, some argue that poverty statistics are inaccurate and do not fully encompass the number of people struggling. Nevertheless, they are an important measure to consider when evaluating poverty in the U.S. A series of reports by Columbia University and Robin Hood found that 21% of New Yorkers are under the OPM line. A secondary measure, called the Supplemental Poverty Measure, tells us that 23% may be a more accurate number. Furthermore, 37% of New Yorkers face severe material hardship, meaning they are deprived of critical resources. Meanwhile, a report from Center City District and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation (CPDC) found that Philadelphia’s official poverty rate is 25.8%. This is the highest of all big cities in the nation. The report attributes this rate to an ineffective public education system, poor job growth rate and archaic tax structure. To fully address poverty in America, major political and social reform is necessary. However, there are many things we can do in our daily lives to contribute to the cause. Some options include:

  • Volunteer locally, specifically for tutoring or afterschool programs

  • Donate money, food, clothing, toilettes, old furniture, toys, books, etc.

  • Fundraise to increase awareness while raising money

  • Contact Your Congressional Representatives to increase discussion about solutions

  • Shop local or purchase fair trade products

  • Use public transportation

With small acts such as these, we can do our part to reduce poverty. However, above all, in my opinion, we must humanize the problem by engaging with those who suffer around us. While volunteering, donating, or simply walking on the street, talk to someone dealing with limited income or resources. Ask them about their life, let them know you care, and understand what kind of change they think needs to come to better their condition. Help them, especially children, believe that there is hope for improvement. Online advertising makes donating way too easy What do you do when you do not know something? What is your first instinct? Odds are, it’s to Google it. In an age of quick information and seemingly boundless technological capabilities, Google has taken over. The multi billion-dollar company has infiltrated field after filed, but, like most internet sites, continues to earn most of its revenues (around 95% in Google’s case) from one source: advertisements. Online advertising began in 1994 with the banner ad and has since matured into an incredibly intricate and instrumental field. Although originally used by large corporations for their products and services, online ads have become popular in the charity sector as a means of increasing awareness and, ideally, donations. However, online advertisements can be incredibly expensive. For example, websites can charge anywhere from $.50 to $50 for every 1,000 times an ad is displayed and may require a minimum of 100,000 or so displays. This cost quickly adds up, especially if an organization wishes to advertise on a high traffic website. Thus, traditional banner, display, and pop-up ads are often not feasible options for charities. This has led some charities to adopt a more cost efficient use for ads that actually allows them to harness the power of online advertising revenue for their cause’s benefit. Through a method called click-to-donate, philanthropic organizations take advantage of potential supporters’ wish to contribute and companies’ desire to advertise. All a site visitor has to do is click a donation button on the website’s page. Then, an advertisement purchased by a company is displayed. The revenue made by the organization from the ad is directed towards the cause. This creates a ridiculously easy way for people to contribute to an organization once a day without having to spend any of their own money. Two organizations that have taken full advantage of the click-to-donate method are Greater Good and Care to Click. The two sites are designed completely around the concept, complete with tabs that identify different causes for which you may click. There are even sites such as Nice Things To Do that list other websites with click-to-donate buttons, making it easy to navigate to one that is meaningful for you. Though the contribution from one click may be minute, the impact from hundreds of thousands of clicks can be significant. To display the impact that your clicks can have, Greater Good’s site has a Recent Projects page that describes some of the causes they fund and exactly how many clicks it took to do so. Although this may seem like an incredible method for donating to charity, there is one aspect that we should all be aware of before we begin our clicking rampages. Many sites that adopt the click-to-donate method do not deliver all of the funds raised by the ads to the cause. Be sure to take the time to look into an organization’s donation policy to ensure that your clicks are worth while. So, the next time you find yourself distracted while doing an assignment, direct your random internet visits to a click-to-donate website. Pressing a button may not change the world, but at least it’s a better use of your time than another Tasty video.


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