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Appalachian Poverty

Poverty is a global problem, and it has existed from the beginning

of civilization. Hunger, homelessness, and lack of health care are major

aspects of this world-wide

dilemma. Many countries are in complete poverty and a majority are

third-world countries. Within the United States of America, a land of

plenty, there are also pockets of extreme poverty. Governments around the

world are trying to solve this huge problem. Third world poverty and

Appalachian poverty, which occurred in the United States of America, have

developed for various reasons, and these situations have led to a great

deal of problems.

Throughout the world, poverty has plagued all countries. In smaller,

under-developed countries many people die from starvation. These countries

can not afford to support their citizens. Due to their financial problems,

the people lack proper shelter and clothing to keep themselves warm during

cold months. Since they lack adequate shelter and clothing, diseases occur

all over. These diseases develop a lot easier with poor nutrition. Once

again with more financial problems, health care is limited to none.

Lawrence Senesh, the contributor of “Poverty as a Social Problem” from

World Book, says poverty is usually caused by the difficulty in holding and

even getting a job(650). Ability, education, and skills help determine the

kind of job an individual gets (650).

Horten 2

Everyone does not have the same physical abilities and mental abilities.

Poor health and abilities prevent some people from holding a job. Through

science people have been able to hold onto jobs a lot easier (650). It has

increased the need for professional workers and lowered the demand for the

unskilled (650). So, the people with higher education will get paid a

higher income, and people with lower education will get paid a lower

income. Changes in economic slumps can often bring poverty. When

businesses drop off and production declines people lose jobs without

warning (650). Poverty is also caused by social conditions, such as racial

discrimination (Blacks, Asians, and Mexicans) (650). Whites are usually

the ones who do the discriminating (650).

There are a variety of third-world countries in the world. A third

world country is a country that is economically depressed and continues to

grieve. Examples of third world countries are Bosnia, Hungary, Austria,

Romania, and Somalia. The United States of

America, the richest country in the world, has its share of poverty

(Senesh650a). Granted, American poverty is no match to third world

poverty, but for such a prosperous country it is pretty sad. Most third

world countries do not have social security or welfare (650a). So, the

people of those countries have no income to keep themselves going. Even


America does have both social security and welfare, this country still has

many homeless and starving people.

Horten 3

Appalachia includes thirteen states, ranging from southern New York to

eastern Mississippi (650a). About eighteen million people live in

Appalachia. In March, 1965, the

United States Congress passed the Appalachian Regional Redevelopment Act.

The legislation was designed primarily to create more jobs by attracting

tourists and industries. It provided funds and made the area more

accessible. Funds also were made available

for new schools and health facilities, land and mine reclamation, and

timber and water conservation.

The poverty in America will not be solved all at once (650a).

Simply creating jobs will not help eliminate poverty because there are some

people who are disabled and just can not work (650a). The government

social welfare programs help to add income to many people (650a). These

people could be the retired, unemployed, disabled, or widowed (650a). In

order to help the less fortunate, the people that are employed are taxed to

raise money to pay for social security and other benefits (650a). For the

higher income workers taxes are higher, and for lower income workers taxes

are lower. Michael Winerip stated in “What’s a Nice Jewish Lawyer Like

John Rosenberg Doing in Appalachia?” from New York Times Magazine, that

Rosenberg left Washington to go to Kentucky ; he quickly realized that the

land was barren. A land that was once bountiful

Horten 4

for its time is now a vast quantity of nothing (Winerip25). In the video

tape “Applachian Poverty”directed by Susan Jones, she shows how runned down

Applachia really is.

The government has been trying to eliminate poverty for decades. In

1946 an employment act was passed (Senesh 650a). This act charges the

federal government to

keep the economic stability of the United States of America (Senesh 650a).

The way the government has tried to decrease the poverty level is by

increasing in goods and

services (650a). Since the mid-1940’s, poverty has been reduced about one

per cent a year, which is a normal growth rate (650a). Some other ways

that could help this vast area is for the people to start refarming the

land, which is stated in the book Justice Catholic Faith at Work in the

World by Gustatson and Wilkins (42). Sandra Decosta states in “Head Start

Restarts hope in Rural W. Virginia” from Children Today that schools are

being built and education is being spread. Although Applachia is plumeting

economically, the soul and hope of the people are still thriving, which is

found in the article “In the Heart of Applachia” from National Geographic

By Jeannie Ralston.

The United States of America is a land of plenty and America is known

for its freedom and advantages. With all these possibilities to succeed,

America has its own shame. Sadly enough, poverty has struck this country.

The largest pocket of poverty is found in a region called Appalachia. As

written by D. McGraw in “Signs of hope in Appalachia”

Horten 5

from U.S. News and World Report. Although Appalachian poverty is a big

issue in the United States, it was a lot worse about thirty-years ago (62).

The United

States government has pumped fourteen million dollars into Appalachia (63).

Majority of the money is used to fix up run down buildings, communities,

and highways (Senesh 650a). In the beginning of the 1960’s, thirty percent

of Appalachia was in poverty. Thanks to the government funding, poverty

has decreased from thirty percent to fifteen percent (62). Although much as

changed, Ron Ellen ,a man that McGraw questions, quotes, ” …when you get

back into the communities that are off the beaten track, you find

conditions that have changed little from the 1960’s (62).” Another one of

the biggest problems in

Appalachia is the unemployment. In West Virginia alone, eight percent of

the people are unemployed (McGraw 63). The sad thing is that it is the

best it has been in the past twenty years, and West Virginia is considered

to be the lowest unemployed state in Appalachia (63). The economic

development of Appalachia is extremely uneven (Mcgraw 62). Things that

help these small town are efforts like Dollywood (62). A variety of things

were done to help lower the unemployment rate. One important item is the

big industries, like computer factories, that came into the area. The

government has been doing a lot to decrease unemployment. They have been

creating government jobs for the people, a program which began in the late

1980’s. In fact, they set up a Federal Buerau of

Horten 6

Ivestigation fingerprinting building that employs two thousand six hundred

people in West Virginia (Mcgraw 63). Companies have flourished in this

area. Nearly seventy top software companies have entered the area since

1990 (Mcgraw 63). Over a thousand residents have been employees in

software and research (63). Seventy seven point nine million dollars were

used to build seventy percent more firms in 1994, which was raised by the

federal government (63).

The primary way to lower unemployment is to encourage future

generations to get an education. The high schools today must be upgraded

to meet the future needs of our nation. In high schools and colleges

across the nation all students must be aquentied with the computer. Today,

the computer is used for many purposes from simple spreadsheet to

architectural designs. Another technological advance is the internet. The

internet is almost a mandatory commodity today. The whole world is

connected by the internet.

The internet connects many large and small companies. In Virginia, seven

hundred out of eight hundred and seventy three high schools have connected

to the internet as we

approach the end of 1997 (McGraw63). If the education is upgraded, people

will get more jobs and/or higher paying jobs (63). The Appalachian

Regional Commission says that seventy seven percent of eighteen to

twenty-four year olds have completed high school (McGraw63).

Horten 7

The bishops say in article “Bishops speak out on behalf of

Appalachia” from Christian Century, ” Poverty is just as bad as it was

twenty years ago (Bishops6).” In the new pastoral, bishops say that the

natural environment and its people depend on global environmental change

(Bishops 6). This change is having a great impact on the Appalachian

region, from New York to Mississippi (6). Reasons for the change involve

the closing of large business and the cutting down of forests (6). The new

economic system is changing the Appalachian region into a more

technological area (6). A bishop states:

With the decline of mining and other blue-collar


governments are tempted to depends on garbage dumping and new

prisons as their only source of revenue and new


is at a crossroads where a choice must be made between


development (6).

The outside region is trying make Appalachia into an out-of-state

garbage-wasteland (6). Proposals also have been made to put countless

prisons into the area (6). The mining

workers and blue collar employers are being dumped off like waste (6).

Bishop Walter

Sullivan of Richmond, Virginia says, ” we are treating the poor the way we

treat the land (6).” The people of Appalachia should be treated through

technology since they are also

Horten 8

consumers of this land we call “land of plenty” (6). The bishops are

helping out the Farmers Budget and adopting forests to help keep Appalachia

a better place (6). Many also say that the land should be used for helpful

things, not wasteful things (6). The bishops who all signed the statement

were: Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, Archbishop John Donoghue of

Atlanta, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, Archbishop Thomas Kelly

of Louisville, Bishop William Curlin of Charlotte, North Carolina, and

Bishop William Hughes of Covington, Kentucky.

Although the Appalachian area is known for its poverty problem,

Jeffery Damron who wrote “Going Back to Appalachia” from Newsweek,

considers it a beautiful place and something he calls home (16). Because

of the down roads and low run communities, it is no wonder Appalachia has

the stereotype it has (Damron16). Appalachia is not just a poor waste

land. It is an underdeveloped area waiting for the future to arrive. It

has high mountains and extremely gentle winds which make life there

beautiful. The forest of

Appalachia is a major center of the United States (16). “Bark grinders and

fly minders tell a tale of Appalachia” which was written by Jeannie Ralston

in Smithsonian, states that she

notices that progress has found the mountain area, and that the

life is easier and more romantic (Ralston45). With the wide open land this

area is open for the future. People are starting to move into this area,

looking for what promises to be a bright future (16). Appalachia contains

one of the biggest cities in the world. New York City is the center of

Horten 9

world activity. Trends are started and developed New York City (16).

Despite the fact that Appalachia is high in poverty, it has one of the

lowest crime rates in the United States. It is a wonderful place to live

and raise a family (16). With the wide open fields and ranches, it makes

for a peaceful place to live. When the seasons hit the Appalachian

Mountains, it is beautiful (16). In autumn the leaves turn a red and gold

colors that light up the hillsides. The mountain ranges run on forever (16).

Political scientists say that poverty situations could lead to

hostile actions against the government (Senesh 650). The government is

usually blamed for the poors’ problems. As quoted by anthropologists and

sociologists “Poverty breeds Poverty” (650). Children that are raised in a

poor environment are usually destined to be poor for all their lives. Many

adults become extremely discouraged. Due to the fact that they can’t hold

onto a job, these people lose all dignity and self-respect (650-650a).

Eventually they become associated with being poor. This leads to their

children wanting to remain poor (650a).

With the younger generations wanting to remain poor, it operates like a

chain reaction ; leading to hundreds and hundreds of people in poverty.

Given all of the facts mentioned above, it is easy to see that the world

and America has a bigger problem on their hands than they realize. The

causes of poverty come from many different factors. It might be related to

the natural evolution of civilization. There are ways to solve this

dilemma, and it will take some time to resolve. If this problem is

Horten 10

solved soon the whole world could prosper in the future, but if not the

whole world could pass away in famine.

Horten 11


Appalachian Poverty. Dir. Susan Jones. 1997.

Bishop. “Bishops speaks out on behalf of Appalachia.” The Christian Century

3 January 1996: 6.

Damron, Jeffery. “Going Back to Appalachia.” Newsweek 19 October 1992: 16.

DeCosta, Sandra. “Head Start Restarts hope in Rural W. Virginia.” Children



Gustatson Ph.D, Janie , and Ronald Wilkins. Justice Catholic Faith at Work

in the World


McGraw, D. “Signs of Hope in Appalachia.” U.S. News and World Report

6 May 1996 : 62-63.

Ralston, Jeannie. “Bark grinders and fly minders tell a tale of

Appalachia.” Smithsonian

February 1996: 44-53.

Ralston, Jeannie. “In the Heart of Appalachia.” National Geographic

February 1993: 112.

Senesh Lawerence. “Poverty as a Social Problem.” World Book 1977: 650-650a.

Winerip, Michael. “What’s a nice Jewish lawyer like John Rosenberg doing in

Appalachia?” New York Times Magazine 29 June 1997 :25-27.


Appalachian Poverty

Thesis statement: Third world poverty and Appalachian poverty, which

occurred in the

United States of America, have come about for

various reasons, and

these situations have led to a great deal of


I. World-Wide poverty

A. Third world poverty

1. Lack of Social Security

2. Lack of nutrition

3. Lack of financial stability

B. First world poverty

1. New York

2. West Virginia

II. United States of America poverty

A. Cause of poverty

1. Unemployment

2. Racial dicrimination

B. Effects of poverty

1. National shame


2. More poverty

C. Resolution to poverty

1. Improve education

2. Improve technology

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