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Poverty Level: the United States vs Africa



According to the dictionary, poverty means “the state of being extremely poor”. However, when most people think of poverty the visuals of a struggling African family or malnourished children come to mind. While both of these visuals hold serious stakes in reality, the poverty epidemic runs much closer to home than most Americans realize. 

Poverty is never thought of as an issue to which the United States could succumb, yet one in six Americans face hunger problems on a daily basis. While American poverty has been left under wraps for years according to many essay about poverty, international areas such as India and countries in Africa have garnered much well-deserved attention. Revealing poverty statistics about America will open eyes about this country, but also demonstrate how depraved other countries’ poverty situation truly is.


Situation with Poverty in the United States

Contrary to popular belief, poverty runs rampant in the United States. Nearly 40 percent of Americans from age 25 to age 60 will experience at least a year below the poverty line. Additionally, 54 percent of Americans are expected to spend at least one year at or just above the poverty line.


Add in factors such as welfare, near-poverty, and unemployment and nearly four out of five Americans are directly affected.


Thankfully for American citizens, those who face the poverty epidemic rarely spend significant chunks of time under the poverty line. The typical pattern of American poverty is for an individual to experience poverty for a year or two, get above the line for an extended period of time and either stay above the line or drift back under. It often happens with students who struggle with money during their college years, as we know well that college education in the United States is very expensive. But after graduation many students can find a job with a decent income and don’t be poor anymore. Point being, most Americans do not undergo prolonged spells of poverty for an extended period of time.


In comparison to poverty in Africa, American poverty pales considerably in the number of people affected and the impact it has on the lives of everyone. There were an estimated 49.7 million Americans that suffered through poverty in 2012. This number seems lofty, but the countries that make up the sub-Saharan area in Africa accounted for over 239 million people living poverty-stricken lives in a study conducted in 2010.


Poverty in Africa

Poverty is much more widespread in Africa than the United States for a plethora of reasons. Most Americans find their way out of poverty through the acquisition of a steady job or some sort of reliable source of income. In Africa, the number of available jobs is exceedingly low. Many African people in the sub-Saharan area have to cultivate the land for their own food, or must locate their own supply of water.


Secondly, the African people not only suffer from a lack of available jobs and expensive education in comparison to average household income, they also must deal with incompetent governments and officials. For example, the government installed in Nigeria is corrupt and inept. The government does not rely on the taxpayer’s money to keep it afloat, instead gleaning much of its profits from crude oil reserves. With the government not depending on the people’s money, corruption has snuck into the system; resulting in Nigerian legislators having the highest annual salary in the world, yet close to 70 percent of the people reside in poverty.


Lastly, African people do not have the same access to vaccinations and medical treatment that Americans do. Love or hate the American healthcare system, having a system of healthcare is a much better alternative than having none at all. Millions of African people die from AIDS/HIV per year; this is no hidden secret. However, millions also fall to conditions such as malaria and diarrhea, sicknesses that can be cured with relative ease in the United States.



The United States may not be in perfect shape, but when compared to the African state of poverty, the American poverty pales considerably. There are always others in the world who have greater needs than those in countries who have been blessed with running water, reliable food sources, and functioning hospitals.