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Social Issues in the U.S.A. by Sigrid Brevik Wangsness 5 November 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Issues in the U.S.A. by Sigrid Brevik Wangsness 5 November 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Issues in the U.S.A. by Sigrid Brevik Wangsness 5 November 2012

2 I. Poverty The USA is one of the richest nations in the world, but still one of the major challenges facing the American society is poverty. 1960s: "War on Poverty" (L. B. Johnson) 2000: “We must ensure that the nation’s poorest residents are not left behind by the booming economy” (Al Gore)

3 Poverty According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 46 million people in the USA live below the poverty line (2011), representing 15% of the population Development of the poverty rate: 1959-2010


5 Poverty Poverty rates by region (2010): Northeast: 12.8% Midwest: 13.9% West: 15.3% South: 16.9% (Cp. to the poverty rate in the USA as a whole: 15.1%)

6 Poverty Poverty rates by state (2011). Poverty rates by ethnic group (2010): Whites: 9.9% (= Non-Hispanic Whites) Asians: 12.1% Hispanics: 26.6% Blacks: 27.4%

7 Poverty Native Americans Even though more than 60% of the poor in the USA are white, America’s poor are overrepresented among its minorities Do the official figures show the whole picture?

8 II. Income Inequality The income gap has widened between the poorest and richest American families in recent years. The earnings for the poorest fifth of American families rose less than 1% from 1988 to 1998 (during the boom), but jumped 15% for the richest fifth. Why? How is it today?

9 Income Inequality Unemployment Trailer homes – “tent cities” Homelessness Equality of opportunity or equality of result?

10 III. Class How important is social class in the USA? (CAS, pp.163-166) “Old” money – invisible wealth Education- prestigious universities (Ivy League) The American Dream of social mobility/ lack of class identification vs. greater class differences in recent years. Why?

11 IV. Race and Ethnicity What is the largest minority group in the USA today? Future population projections? To what extent has the historical experiment of “a nation of immigrants” been successful? (Essay question!) Is it correct to say that the present USA, generally speaking, is a peaceful and democratic multi-ethnic and multi-racial society?

12 Race and Ethnicity How frequent are examples of gang wars and riots? What about racial /ethnic tension and conflicts? Which ethnic groups are involved? What about discrimination? "In the USA almost every issue has a racial dimension." How? Examples? (CAS, pp. 166-171)

13 V. Is the U.S.A. a Welfare State on the European Model? Does it have a comprehensive range of centrally organized, partly free social services + welfare benefits? Does it have a publicly funded NHS? Why/Why not? How important is self-reliance and independence: responsibility of the individual? "The deserving /undeserving poor". Welfare a stigma?

14 Health Insurance Coverage Most working Americans get medical insurance through their employers who usually pay about half the cost. Many also have private insurance. Still, in 2010 almost 50 million (49.904m) Americans did not have medical insurance.

15 Health Insurance Coverage What were the most important aspects of Obama’s health-care plan, also called “The Affordable Care Act”? Why was Obama’s health-care reform so controversial? How far has it been implemented?

16 Social Security and Health Care In the USA there is a mixture of public- sector programmes and private-sector programmes for social security and health care. Let us have a look at the public sector:

17 State Government Programmes Shared authority between federal and state governments, but the states have the primary responsibility for their social services. Some states are more "generous" than others. Change in residency requirements (S.C.) and attitudes since the 1970s.

18 State Government Programmes Unemployment benefit: The Department of Labor oversees the system of unemployment compensation, but each state administrates its own programme Time limits (6-9 months) Limited amount (often just 1/4 of previous wage) Retraining and education

19 Federal Programmes A. Federal social-security benefits a) Retirement insurance and other social- security benefits b) AFDC  TANF (1996). Avoid "welfare dependency“ c) Food stamps / subsidized housing d) “Workfare”  WIN

20 Federal Programmes B. Federal health-care programmes a) Medicare: for the elderly and disabled (costly) b) Medicaid: for the poor and needy. The problem of AIDS, for instance. In addition: Private charities

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