Economics plays a significant role in society, and extreme poverty in conjunction with extreme wealth can lay the foundation for many problems for humanity as a whole. These problems are felt the world over. According to a 2006 MSN Money report, half of the world's six billion people live on less than $2 a day, whereas half of the wealth of the world is shared among the richest two percent. This social inequality reaches far into every fragment of the human experience with wide-reaching consequences that compound accordingly.
Obvious social ills of poverty include higher crime, higher mortality rates and homelessness and hunger. However more insidious consequences include the lack of opportunity presented to those children born into these circumstances. Children of the poor often have less access to educational opportunities than their wealthier counterparts; they often also lack a network of support to lead them in positive directions. This lack of opportunity often manifests itself in more apathetic kids who get caught up in disastrous choices that keep them bound in the cycle of poverty, such as teen pregnancy and addiction.
The Congressional Budget Office released disheartening reports covering the years between 1979 and 2007 that indicate the gap between the classes is widening. The wealthiest one percent in America saw a 281 percent gain in their net income as adjusted for inflation. This was in contrast to the 16 percent gain experienced by those in the bottom fifth. This economic stress manifests itself in poorer families that are more likely to be single parent homes with less adult involvement and supervision, thanks to being a part of the working poor.
Impact on Health
Poverty can also have a dramatic negative impact on health. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the disadvantaged are more likely to be malnourished from the womb, which can lead to compromised cognitive ability and health issues that interfere with a stable learning environment. Likewise, these children are less likely to get medical help when needed, which can impact society as a whole with contagious infections that might otherwise be treated and quarantined at home. Parents who remain stuck in poverty are less likely to be able to provide the care necessary or take the time off of work to care for their children.
The Vanishing Middle Class
A 2010 article in Forbes Magazine delved into the phenomenon of the vanishing middle class. This takes into account those incomes that flat-lined during the first decade of the new millennium, and the unemployment rates that further drove the poverty rate in the United States higher. This widening chasm between the classes will result in fewer opportunities for those who desperately need them. This will result in fewer skilled or educated workers, and a more open global market will encourage companies to fill job openings elsewhere.