Poverty: A Complex Situation

Poverty: A Complex Situation

According to Bloomberg, U.S. household income fell in 2020 and the national poverty rate rose one percentage point from a 60-year low after having dropped for 5 straight years (now 11.4%). Overall economic health of American families amid the pandemic was upended, and millions were out of work. Iowa’s children and women fared even worse than the national statistics; Iowa’s child poverty rate last year was 14%, and 12.3% of women lived in poverty. Of Iowa’s single parent families with children, 27% now live below the poverty threshold.

Poverty is defined as “a state of lacking basic necessities or a lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”  The most common measure of poverty in the U.S. is the "poverty threshold" set by the U.S. government.  This measure recognizes poverty as a lack of those goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society.  The official threshold is adjusted annually for inflation using the consumer price index (CPI).

Last week at our board meeting, we took part in an exercise to better understand poverty and how a person living in poverty views the world – specifically, how differently the world can look when one lives with a sense of scarcity as opposed to abundance.

If you’ve not yet “taken” the poverty tour, take a look at this short video to better understand the circumstances in many families’ lives.

Our grant partners and other local funders address this issue, but it takes time to move a woman and her family out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. With our community, Chrysalis takes a multi-generational approach to poverty, which is defined as the condition of a person that, during childhood, was supported by a family at or below the national poverty level, and continues to live in this circumstance as an adult.

Poverty is not just an economic issue; poverty is a complex situation. One of the most effective tools to change the situation of persons in poverty, particularly generational poverty, is education. This is why Chrysalis After-School programs were created, and why they continue to build girls’ capacity to complete educational goals, commit to life-long learning and growth, and become independent. We’re now in our 24th consecutive year of delivering Chrysalis After-School programs throughout Greater Des Moines, and can be proud of its success.