Socioeconomic -- or social economic -- issues are concerns regarding the factors that can impact an individual or family’s social standing and economic status. These concerns or questions include the ethics, fairness and results of policies, theories and institutions that may result in a different standard of treatment and opportunities based on socioeconomic status. Poverty is a major socioeconomic issue because it is the source of many other socioeconomic concerns.
Disproportionate Poverty Levels
According to statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, there were 46.5 million people living in poverty, which means the poverty rate was 15 percent. For a family of four, the average poverty threshold -- or poverty line -- was $23,492, which means that a family of four making less than this was considered poor. There are 5 million more women than men who live in poverty, and children represent 33 percent of those in poverty. Also, a family headed by a single adult is more likely to have a female head of household, and is at greater risk of being in poverty.
Disparities in Health
People of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to have equal access to quality health care and more likely to develop health problems. According to an article in "The Atlantic," titled, “How Being Poor Makes You Sick,” poor people are less likely to exercise or be able to afford gym membership or exercise equipment. They are also more likely to live in areas where they are exposed to environmental toxins, suffer from poor nutrition and develop health conditions. In addition, the anxiety of poverty makes them more likely to develop mental problems than the general population.
Low Education Attainment
Education is both a cause and an effect of socioeconomic status. People of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to be educated. According to the Institutes for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, neither society nor the families of disadvantaged students invest in their education, and as a result, these children have reduced employment levels and make lower wages. In addition, the National Center for Children in Poverty notes that children in low-income families have other extenuating circumstances. For example, they may have a teen mother, live in a non-English-speaking household, or live in a household where no one has a high school diploma, and these factors may also increase the chances that they will not have a successful school experience.
Justice System Inequalities
People in lower socioeconomic classes are also more likely to deal with the criminal justice system. In an interview with National Public Radio, sociologist Alexes Harris of the University of Washington says poor people are more likely to be arrested and be processed through the courts. In addition, an investigation by NPR discovered that poor defendants face harsher treatment than others who can pay court fees. Defendants are now charged for government services, such as pre-trail jail fees, jury fees, public defendant reimbursement fees and drug testing fees. However, many poor people are arrested when they fail to pay for these services, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Also, electronic monitoring devices are sometimes used as an alternative to jail time, but defendants who cannot afford to pay rental fees for these devices have no choice but to serve jail time.
- U.S. Census Bureau: Poverty
- National Center for Law and Economic Justice: Poverty in the United States: A Snapshot
- The Atlantic: How Being Poor Makes You Sick
- University of Wisconsin-Madison Institute for Research on Poverty: Education and Poverty
- National Center for Children in Poverty: Investing in Young Children
- National Public Radio: Increasing Court Fees Punish the Poor
- olesiabilkei/iStock/Getty Images