Implications of Poverty


Return to Table of Contents.
Return to previous page: Poverty in Erie, Pennsylvania.



Poverty and poor housing in particular have important implications. Understanding the full consequences of the situation make it apparent that solving this problem is critical.

Many different studies have looked at the effects of housing on different aspects of life. Sociologist Lauren J. Krivo states that “housing is an important source of social and economic well-being” (8). Living conditions impact “physical and psychological health, privacy, social status, and current and long-term financial security,” with these bene fits coming to those who live in higher-quality and less crowded housing (
8).


Lead_Paint.jpgIn terms of health, there are many problems directly related to housing and environment. Low-income families are more likely to live in houses built before 1990 (5).
It is in these older homes that children can be exposed to lead. Through drinking-water contamination by old lead pipes and through lead paint dust and chips found in older homes children can be exposed to lead (11). According to data from 2000, 35% of housing units of those living below the poverty line had lead-based paint, whereas 19% of all housing units did (12). Due to this disproportionate exposure, “children in units with lead based pain are almost 10 times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels than children in similar housing without lead paint” (12). This is particularly relevant in Er ie where only 4% of houses have been built since 1990 (5). Between this factor and the fact that “children with elevated blood lead levels are more common in communities with many households below the federal poverty level,” which Erie qualifies as, it is clear that this is a major risk in Erie (13).

Another way that health is affected by low-quality housing is through poor ventilation and poor air filtration. This leads to exposure to allergens and neurotoxins that can have negative effects on children, including exacerbating asthma, permanently damaging lungs, and having lasting impact on brain development (14).


poverty.jpgStudies also relate academic performance of children to housing conditions, especially the problem of overcrowding. It has been proven that “crowding within the household… engenders observably detrimental effects including irritability, withdrawal, weariness, and both poor physical and mental health” (9). Because overcrowded or unsanitary housing can have these detrimental effects on physical and mental health, children become more likely to miss school due to illness. They are also more likely to be dealing with the illness of a loved one at home. As these factors are inversely related, when absences from school rise, academic performance falls (10). Overcrowding also inhibits a child’s ability to study through both increases in their irritability and the lack of private space free of distraction. By affecting a child’s education in this way, poor housing hinders a student’s ability to obtain a quality education, and level of education directly correlates with employment and income levels. Because “housing is a very important material mechanism by which socioeconomic… advantage is transmitted from one generation to the next,” this helps to continue the cycle of poverty (9).

child.jpg
T
here are numerous other ways that housing affects individuals. Because housing costs make up such a large proportion of budgets, low-income families struggle to build up financial security for their families through savings
(9). This may mean choosing between paying their rent and paying for groceries, health care, or other necessary items. In order to afford all of these items families may have to concede the safety or quality of their living accommodations in order to afford other necessities.


A
nother implication of poverty housing comes in employment. A permanent address is needed for job applications, but many lack the stability to provide one. Health is important in obtaining and keeping a job, but the negative effects that living conditions can have on health can have great repercussions on someone's employment. It is in these ways that housing can affect employment and therefore income. Without employment or income the quality of housing cannot be improved, marking the vicious cycle of poverty that affects many.



broken_windows.jpg
A
final study that must be taken into account is one that is commonly referred to as the “broken windows theory.” Based upon a 1982 article by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, this theory implies that the condition of a neighborhood has an effect on behavior, especially the level of crime in that area (15). Several studies from Lowell, Massachusetts to Groningen, Netherlands have shown that by fixing the small things in an area – cleaning up graffiti and trash and fixing broken windows – residents in such an area are more likely to care for the area and crime is reduced (16). This is important because it means that when the quality of an area is improved the rate of crime decreases, therefore making it a safer place to live.



O
verall, these consequences of overcrowded and unsafe housing make the need to improve housing much more clear. Low-income citizens face these risks and problems every day, and their quality of life and potential for development are severely affected.




The following video was produced by Habitat for Humanity. It gives a
short summary of the importance of quality housing and the effects that poor housing can have
.







Proceed to next page: Theological Position.
Return to Table of Contents.