14% of people now live below the poverty level in New York State. The Monroe County rate is hovering around 15%, while the rate in Rochester is an astonishing 33%. Of this, 25% are white, while the rate of poverty among the Hispanic and black population is much higher, 43 and 39 percent respectively. But this isn’t just a local news headline, either — this sort of disparity is happening all across the country in similar numbers. Minorities have long been disproportionately affected by issues like poverty and homelessness than their white neighbors, and often experience these sorts of issues in a more acute and seemingly inescapable way.
Here are a few ways in which this sort of poverty affects the lives of minorities.
Improper Access to Healthcare
The average length of time a person will need to wear braces is around two years. That’s two years of dental visits on top of the initial assessment and upfront costs of the braces themselves. Needless to say, that adds up to a considerable amount of money. Often, those living in poverty can’t reliably pay for adequate healthcare, which includes corrective devices such as braces.
This lack of access to proper healthcare also works to set children up for a lifetime of health-related issues which may have been avoided if addressed in childhood. This covers both physical and mental issues, as well. The rates of reported trauma, including community trauma, in minority communities is also routinely higher than it is in predominately white communities.
Inability to Pay the Bills
Not being able to pay basic bills can have drastic and disastrous effects on a person’s mindset. Even more so if they’re ever in a position where they have to file bankruptcy. You may have heard of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in reference to business before, but for most couples and individuals, the choice is between Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
While both of these forms of bankruptcy essentially lead to the same outcome, the psychological effect of being forced to file can’t be understated. But without access to proper physical or mental health care, many minorities are simply left to suffer in silence. Being forced by circumstances to file for bankruptcy can be a jarring and difficult event even in otherwise stable times. Many minorities have to endure the feelings of shame and failure that often accompany filing for bankruptcy alone, or at least without the aid of a qualified mental health professional.
Struggling to Meet Basic Needs
Furnaces are designed to last for between 15 and 20 years, but in the event that one does go out, it’s much more likely that a member of a minority group will just have to find an extra blanket due to a lack of disposable income. Basic needs such as stable, comfortable shelter often get pushed aside in the face of poverty, replaced by more urgent needs, like the need for food.
This struggle to meet basic needs also has an adverse effect on an individual’s mental state, but without reliable access to qualified professionals, there is often nothing to be done and no one to talk to about it. This, in turn, can and does lead to the sort of vicious cycle we’re currently seeing, wherein the wealth disparity appears to grow with each passing year.
When it comes down to the numbers, minority groups are routinely and disproportionately affected by issues like poverty than are their white neighbors. This sort of racial disparity underscores and highlights continued issues minorities face with finding and affording proper healthcare and even basic expenses such as food and clothing.