Poverty among Women and Children in Minnesota
The high levels of poverty in the world are attributed to income inequality, which contributes to low development among nations of the world. World poverty can be measured through the analysis of the economic and political freedom, the average income of individuals, the child mortality rates, the illiteracy levels among a population, the life expectancy and the average national income of a particular country. However, the levels of poverty experienced are beyond the control of individuals as they are determined by circumstances that dictate the economic conditions of people. In Minnesota, the levels of poverty experienced are determined by factors such as income levels and literacy levels. According to the 2006 American Community Survey, conducted between census years by the U.S. Census Bureau, found that 25 percent of women age 16 and older in Minnesota live in households earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. (Sundquist. 2008, July 21). Women with young children in Minnesota experience poverty due to domestic violence, lack of affordable childcare services, and lack of mental support; therefore, the community should provide services that offer career pathways, education, and training programs that will empower them and create stability.
The poverty levels experienced by women and children in Minnesota are caused by the high number of domestic violence incidences experienced in most households. The violence against women in Minnesota, in particular, inhibits them from making sound financial decisions that contribute to their state of poverty. These acts of violence also contribute to the medical and legal costs, which cause a huge economic burden on the victims. As stated by Chang, Dado, Hawker, Cluss, Buranosk, Slagel, McNeil and Scholle (2010), “women who have experienced Intimate Partner Violence also have higher utilization of medical services and generate higher medical costs compared to women without Intimate Partner Violence experiences.” These costs incurred by women who experience domestic violence are not covered by insurance, which further aggravates the poverty levels.
In addition to this, the violence experienced contributes to lost wages due to loss of jobs as a result of absenteeism, the compromise of the education levels, the damage of property in cases of extreme violence, and emotional and psychological trauma. According to Francis East and Roll (2015), the trauma experienced by the women as a result of the violence contributes to mental health issues, poverty, and stigmatization. To this end, several interventions, such as the development of community strategies and social work interventions are necessary for the promotion of personal empowerment and collective empowerment to the women who experience domestic violence (Francis East & Roll, 2015). Some of these interventions are evident in the establishment of non-profit organizations focused on providing shelter and safety for women and children who experience domestic violence. For instance, Shepherd’s Gate was founded in 1984 to provide shelter to over 11,000 women and children who have been rendered homeless due to factors such as domestic violence, extreme poverty, and addictions (Thomas, 2015).
Domestic violence also contributes to limited economic choices by the victim. For instance, a report by Sheehy (2017), indicates that domestic abuse is manifested in the form of emotional abuse and domination over the finances and sources of income to limit the victim from leaving an abusive relationship. Therefore, a woman who experiences domestic violence will be hesitant to find a job or move out of an abusive relationship for fear of her safety and that of the children (Sheehy, 2017). The economic incapacitation contributes to the high cases of continued violence as the perpetrators control the assets of the victims, which forces them to stay. Over time, the women chose to be homeless to avoid further abuse, which contributes to the high number of homeless women and children in Minnesota. Hence, domestic violence contributes to poverty through the limited economic options available for the victims, the high costs incurred for treatment and legal procedures, and the lack of control over their financial assets.
The women with children also experience poverty as a result of the lack of affordable childcare, which contributes to their poverty levels. According to Helburn and Howes (1996), quality childcare is important in the development of social, psychological, and language development of a child. Hence, children who receive high-quality care are likely to have emotional stability, self-confidence, and display advanced cognitive development (Helburn & Howes, 1996). However, quality health care is expensive, and the parents incur high costs in the provision of quality care, which also contributes to the poverty levels experienced by the parents in an attempt to provide quality care for their children (Helburn & Howes, 1996). The lack of affordable quality of care, therefore, contributes to the financial strains experienced by women in Minnesota, which contributes to the high levels of poverty as the individuals spend their savings on the health care of the minors.
In addition to this, compared to the men, women in Minnesota are likely to be single mothers who rely on a single source of income to support themselves. As argued by McCormack (2016), “childcare expenses represent one of the highest household costs incurred by young families in the United States.” However, the decline in the income levels and the increased cost of childcare in the United States indicate the economic struggle among the citizens to provide for the families (McCormack, 2016). McCormack (2016) further highlights that the struggle is worse among single parents as they solely bear the responsibility of providing for their families and taking care of the children. Given the high cost of childcare, most single parents are trapped in a cycle of poverty and debt as they strive to cater to the needs of the children in their households. Jackson, Brooks‐Gunn, Huang, and Glassman (2000) also state that women are more likely to be the single providers within the family, and single mothers head most of these families. Therefore, the families headed by single women experienced more financial instability compared to families headed by a couple (Jackson et al., 2000).
The provision of care also lies primarily in the hands of the women, limiting them from engaging in economic activities that elevate their financial status. In this case, single women cannot afford a baby sitter to give them the freedom to work and gain financial independence. As stated by Jackson et al. (2000), the economic conditions of the single parents are dependent on support from non-custodial parents. Therefore, the support received is insufficient in hiring baby sitters, which forces the women to take care of the children on their own. These circumstances limit the women from attending school, from running businesses, and from acquiring full-time jobs. Hence, women are restricted from earning enough money to support their families, which also contributes to the high levels of poverty experienced by women in Minnesota.
Furthermore, women in Minnesota experience poverty due to the lack of emotional, mental, and physical support systems to contribute to their well-being. As stated by Mulia, Schmidt, Bond, Jacobs & Korcha, (2008), life in poverty subjects individuals to stressors in the society and within their cycles, which ultimately leads to emotional distress and addiction to drugs to relieve the stress encountered. Therefore, the study by Mulia et al. (2008), outlines the importance of social support in reducing the stressors and avoiding addiction, which contributes to high rates of poverty among women. Mulia et al. (2008) further highlight that these support mechanisms should include measures to reduce the financial burdens, the identification of the stressors, and the stressful conditions that contribute to emotional instability among the affected women.
In addition to this, Maggay (2016) highlights the role of religion and culture in alienating poverty and providing support to the poor. In essence, the poor rely on religious institutions for charity donations and the provision of shelter to cater to their needs. Therefore, the support provided enables the individuals to overcome the poverty experienced through support to start income-generating activities and the provision of basic needs. An example of support offered by a religious institution is the St Paul Domestic violence shelter established by Diane Stores (Hopfensperger, 2008). The facility provides support for women who leave abusive relationships by providing shelter and basic needs for women (Hopfensperger, 2008). The YMCA organization also provides support to individuals with various needs to create a holistic society.
The high levels of poverty are also linked to pay inequalities between the men and the women, which affects the economic status of women. As stated by Jackson et al. (2000), the average salaries earned by women are lower than the salaries earned by men. The wage gap, therefore, contributes to the poverty levels among the women with children in Minnesota and contributes to homelessness as the individuals cannot afford decent housing. Other factors that contribute to the disparities in wages are the education level, age, and race, which determines the wages of both men and women despite having the same workload (Jackson et al., 2000). The women are also involved in low wage part-time jobs, which contributes to the financial insecurities faced by the women that eventually leads to poverty.
However, Launius (2006) argues that the inadequate utilization of resources causes poverty among women with young children. In this case, the women spend the available resources on harmful lifestyles, such as drug abuse, which contributes to the misuse of the resources and loss of employment. These irresponsible behaviors contribute to the cycle of poverty, which worsens if the individuals are solely responsible over their families. The argument, however, fails to highlight the causes of irresponsible behavior and addiction, which can be attributed to stressors that push the individuals to the habits. Anthenelli and Grandison (2012) also state that stress contributes to excessive alcohol consumption “in the tension-reduction hypothesis, stress was seen to increase anxiety, and in response, alcohol was consumed to reduce the anxiety. This connection between stress and alcohol was further linked by observations showing that in alcoholics, the physiological responses to stress were perturbed.” Therefore, the issue among such individuals can be resolved through support programs that cater to the psychological needs of individuals to prevent the development of harmful behaviors. In so doing, the individuals receive counseling and support to establish their lives.
The high levels of poverty among women with children can be reduced through the provision of services that empower women to gain economic stability. In this case, the reduction of the pay gap through the enrollment of more girls in science and technology careers helps in closing the wage gap that exists between men and women. In addition to this, policies towards the balance of work and family for the women encourage them to grow their careers to avoid the poverty experienced. According to Beegle, as quoted in Wabuke (2016), “the main goals for helping people out of poverty are to help them see possibilities for success, believe in their worth, and recognize that they have something to offer.” In so doing, the women will be empowered through their careers, thereby elevating their financial situations.
In addition to this, the changes in the institutional frameworks, particularly in the provision of affordable health care is important in reducing poverty experienced by women with young children. Most parents rely on their income to cater for the health needs of their children. Therefore, the reliance on one income by single parents aggravates the poverty levels within the society (Fitzgerald & Ronsley, 2016). The solution to this problem lies in the development of structures to assist low-income earners in substituting their income. Some of these strategies include the provision of childcare assistance and redesigning the tax credit to meet the needs of all residents (Grant, Jack Fitzpatrick & Ernst, 2011). In so doing, the government reduces the spending on childcare services, thereby reducing the poverty levels experienced by single women.
Other than that, providing support to custodial parents through child support collection eases the burden on single mothers. To this end, the state of Minnesota should review the child support collection strategies to ensure that all the women receive support in the upbringing of the children. Currently, the system exempts the obligors in difficult financial situations from participating in offering child support. However, the obligors who miss payments should be encouraged to provide the support to comply with the provisions to avoid penalties. Compliance o child support boosts the economic well-being of children and prevents the escalation of poverty rates among single mothers. The financially unstable non-custodial parents should also be supported to find employment to facilitate the collection rates of child support remittances.
Finally, the state of Minnesota should provide support services to victims of domestic violence and create strategies to prevent the occurrence of these incidences. In this case, the women experiencing domestic violence should be supported through the provision of medical and legal costs. They should also be supported to find alternative shelter to escape the abusive relationships and build their lives independent of their partners. Additionally, domestic violence should be prevented through the development of initiatives such as the identification of families at risk of domestic violence and interventions to eradicate the occurrence of violence against women. The victims of the violence can also be supported through counseling programs and economic support to enable them to stabilize after the incidences experienced.
Overall, the high levels of poverty among women with young children in Minnesota are attributed to the cases of domestic violence against women, the lack of support systems within the society, and the lack of affordable childcare. These factors contribute to homelessness, and they also serve as indicators of the failure of the structures within society. The failures of the society are manifested in inequality of wages, the lack of facilities that provide emotional support to the emotionally distressed and the drug addicts, and the governance structures that dictate the cost of care. Therefore, the end of poverty among the women with children in Minnesota is dependent on the reforms within the society to accommodate the needs of the poor in the community and the provision of support to the individuals to reduce the poverty levels.