The Shocking Disparity of Resources in Low-Income Areas

Wealth in America tends to move in one direction — toward the top. If you need proof, just take a look at our educational system.

Those who can afford to attend private school have access to the latest technologies, enjoy smaller class sizes, and learn from instructors who might not work in public schools where they cannot make the same amount of money.

But this is just a microcosm of the issue. Access to good food, clean water, and effective medicine are also lacking for the underprivileged in America. In a country that has so much, why are areas that struggle the ones being punished?

How the Poor Get Poorer

When you come from a prosperous family, you have some resources available that make success more accessible. That is not to say that those who succeed don’t deserve the credit. However becoming a successful businessperson when you’re from an established family is not the same as making it when you grow up in a crime-ridden, poverty-stricken area.

Part of the problem lies in a lack of resources overall. Without any assistance from family money, children in these areas usually attend inner-city schools. These schools consistently rank low in government evaluations, so they aren’t allotted funding to expand programs or hire additional teachers.

The disparity of resources perpetuates more disparity. Let’s take a look at another example that can drive people living in a bad situation into a worse one — medicine.

Detroit Buyers Club

Matthew McConaughey portrays a person living with AIDS seeking access to cheaper medication in the 2013 film “Dallas Buyers Club.” While it’s certainly a touching story, the fact is the film was set in the 1980s, and over 30 years later, people living in impoverished areas cannot get access to good healthcare even for conditions much less high-profile than AIDS.

Americans still regularly travel over the border to receive dental work and purchase prescription drugs. Hospitals in low-income areas are few and far between and often suffer from staffing problems because of the difficulty of recruiting medical professionals to work in these parts of the country.

This is a significant contributor to the expanding number of mental-health issues we see in these types of areas, and a reason that the poor remain poor. Think about how someone trying to make their way out of poverty is affected if they come down with a severe illness or injury. There is little hope of offsetting the cost. This leaves the poor in a lifelong struggle to pay for their health needs, with no hope of achieving greater success.

Taking a Closer Look

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently conducted a study on precisely this topic, to find out if the poor were, in fact, receiving less care because their access to medicine was cut off. The study revealed that nearly two-thirds of all hospitals built since 2000 are in wealthy, suburban areas.

In urban areas, the number of hospitals is nearly half of what it was in 1970. Cities like Detroit and New York have seen facilities close their doors because of lack of funding, leaving residents with no nearby solution should they require medical attention. In just the 20 years between 1990 and 2010, over 200 nonprofit and for-profit American hospitals shut down.

The disparity in available health care hurts these places. Critical indicators of inadequate health care such as the number of disabilities per-capita and the prominence of early death among inhabitants illustrate clearly the difference between life in a poor and a wealthy community.

In low-income counties, the average rate of death before age 75 was 480 in 100,000 according to a study by the Center for Disease Control. The same study found that rate to be 345, 39% lower, in higher-income areas.

Waiting for Change in Circumstances

It is clear we have a problem in this country, and the question is will we decide to do anything about it? We can’t expect the current conservative administration to lobby for health care for the poor. But health care reform as a whole could improve the situation for poor people by creating a system where everyone has access to shared resources.

A single-payer system could be the best answer to assist the many Americans living in poverty. It’s easy for affluent politicians to turn a blind eye, but in time the decline of these areas will catch up to us. So, then, are we completely motivated by selfishness, or is there room in this country to care for the sick, no matter their social class?

Kate Harveston is a political writer with an interest in social justice and progressive change. She has a background in journalism and Criminal Justice, so she enjoys anything related to law, politics, culture and the written word. In her spare time, her favorite activity is reading dystopian fiction. If you like her work, you can subscribe to her blog, Only Slightly Biased, or follow her on Twitter for updates!


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