Income inequality continues to rise throughout the country. This issue is perhaps best summed up by the phrase; the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.
Too many people at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder are deprived of good working wages. In comparison, the wealthiest people in the country continue to make more and more money. While the prominent executives are taking home huge bonuses, the people down at the bottom are struggling to get by on minimum wage.
Naturally, this creates a troubling situation in the U.S. Income inequality has significant implications on the lives of millions of people. In this post, we look to explore some of the critical areas that are most impacted by the growing income inequality.
An increase in ACEs
ACEs are adverse childhood experiences, which primarily refers to any stressful or damaging events that happen during childhood, thus can affect health and development across the life course (Halfon, Larson, Son, Lu, & Bethell, 2017). Unfortunately, this can include domestic violence, children being abandoned by parents, a parent being imprisoned, or growing up in an uncertain home environment that’s plagued by arguments or drug abuse problems.
How does this relate to income inequality? Well, Child Trends reveals that economic hardship is one of the most common ACEs reported throughout every single state in the U.S. Families that don’t get paid a fair wage will struggle for money. For example, according to Halfon, Larson, Son, Lu, and Bethell (2017) the data shows a level 4 ACE score in conjunction with extreme poverty children experience a higher level of adverse health effects as compared to level 0-1 ACE scores. The impact of poverty makes life at home increasingly tough and can lead to lots of bad situations. It causes arguments, can lead to domestic violence, and money problems often send people down the road to alcohol and drug abuse.
As such, millions of children are being put through difficult situations as a result of the income inequality throughout the country. Their parents are working hard, but they do not see a fair wage because of the jobs they do.
Of course, there are serious health implications to worry about as well. If a considerable percentage of the population isn’t being given fair wages, then this makes them unable to afford standard medical costs. Insurance premiums can be too high, meaning a lot of people walk around without medical or dental insurance.
As a result, we have a generation of people that delay dental appointments or can’t afford to see their doctors, which leads to many unfavorable health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, depression, and substance abuse to antisocial behaviors going untreated - some of which could increase the morbidity and mortality rates of this vulnerable population (Halfon, Larson, Son, Lu, & Bethell, 2017).
Think about how expensive it is to pay for a repeat prescription for a common disease like asthma. With insurance, this is covered for you. Without it, it becomes an expense that many people can’t afford. So, they live with terrible health problems because they aren’t on a fair enough wage.
To address this issue, research studies show that we need policies and programs that not only target children in poor families but those individuals in middle-income groups where the focus is on social and early interventions targeting family functions (divorce, mental illness, and drug and alcohol use) to decrease exposure to ACEs (Halfon, Larson, Son, Lu, & Bethell, 2017).
In the end, it’s vital to note that the opposite of income inequality isn’t a world where everyone gets paid the same wage. Instead, we want to see a fair distribution of salaries. The people with top jobs get paid far more than other people in the same organization. It’s just not equitable, and it has a significant implication on many people’s lives. Children are growing up in adverse conditions that impact their education and development. People are suffering from troublesome health conditions because they can’t afford insurance. Income inequality is real, and it will continue to get worse unless something changes.
Halfon, N., Larson, K., Son, J., Lu, M., & Bethell, C. (2017). Income inequality and the differential effect of adverse childhood experiences in united states children. Academic Pediatrics, 17(7S), S70–S78. dos: 10.1016/j.acap.2016.11.007
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