Comparison of Working Poor Class in Jacksonian and Present Day America

The problem of working poor was burning for the American society within during the past centuries. Comparing the situation of the families with children as an example of the working poor class representatives in Jacksonian America with the present day community, it can be stated that socio-economic situation and competition in labor market remain the main causes of the phenomenon despite the policies implemented by modern government.

Regardless of the proclamation of equal opportunities on the American territory, the position of the working poor class in Jacksonian America between 1815 and 1848 was unprotected and too far from realization of the American dream. The economical inequality between various strata of population is an inherent trait of any community. “The degree of inequality between rich and poor remained relatively constant during early American industrialization” (Hower 538).

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The economical well-being as the main marker of the social status in American society resulted in appearance of not only paupers but also the working poor class which can be defined as a category of citizens who are employed but remain in relative poverty due to their low wages insufficient for covering their financial and social obligations.

The families with children can frequently be categorized into this subgroup. Putting the main emphasis upon upbringing of their children and covering the related expenses, parents have to cut other costs. Moreover, in most cases they avoid taking risks of migrating and settling on new territories.

Taking into account this responsibility, the Jacksonian philosophy of settling new territories in the American West did not affect families with children because most of them gave preference to staying in one location instead of migrating and using opportunities for changing their destinies and living conditions. The human factor and the parental responsibilities limited the opportunities of families with children to take the advantages of Jacksonian policies, making them one of the most unprotected categories of the working poor.

In contrast to widely spread misconceptions concerning the well-being of all American citizens, there are a lot of individuals and families who maintain regular employment but remain below the poverty level. “The US Census states that in 2005 there were 37 million people in the United States, 12.6 percent of the population, living below the official poverty level” (Brady 38). Families with children remain one of the main categories of the working poor who often combine several jobs but still have difficulties with making ends meet.

In modern American society, the working poor families are frequently inclined to be late with paying their bills and taxes because children, their health, education and clothing are their main priorities. For this reason, even receiving education, finding a job and maintaining full employment or even combining several jobs, modern parents can be induced to take loans or become the clients of the mortgage organizations.

Using the services of these financial institutions for covering certain gaps in their budgets, families can only go deeper into debt. Regardless of the fact that the average amount of children per family has significantly decreased since Jacksonian era, the expenses required for upbringing and educating children have also grown. Thus, the problem of families with children as one of the main categories of the working poor class remains crucial for the present day American society.

The negative implications of the social phenomenon of the working poor class in Jacksonian era were rooted deep in the peculiarities of the social-economic situation in the country in the depicted period of time. Thus, taking into account the fact that children’s and women’s labor was widely used as a cheap but unregistered working force, it can be stated that the lack of legal regulation predetermined the low wages and the absence of social guarantees for the employees (Crisp 129).

This is why the tendency for fostering the education in this period can be explained with not only care for the kids’ well-being, but also the willingness to reduce the competition in the labor market created by the cheap children’s labor. “If children went to school, they stayed out of the labor market, and adult labor did not have to compete with that of low-paid children” (Hower 543).

Thus, the extent of children labor which was necessary for contributing to their families’ income in Jacksonian era can be regarded as an important indicator of the situation with the working poor in the country. The negative consequences of this tendency cannot be limited to the low rates of literacy in the nation, but include also the increased competition in the labor market and the corresponding reduction of wages.

Disregarding the significant changes in legislation which took place in the American community since the Jacksonian era, the socio-economical situation in the country is one of important underlying causes of the high rates of the working poor class in the country. “The gloves-off economy, in which some employers evade established labor standards and undercut more responsible employers, is growing” (Befort and Budd 91).

The situation in the country changes, but the problem of the low wages caused with the intense competition in the labor market is preserved. Realizing their economical and social obligations along with the parental responsibilities, adults can agree for working conditions which are not consistent with modern standards. In case if the violation of law remains unpunished, the cut of workers’ wages can allow the employers who neglect the ethical and legal considerations to create a competitive age.

Recognizing the current situation in the labor market and due to their personal circumstances, some individuals adapt to the modern realities and play according to the rules set by the immoral employers. The above-mentioned situations can make parents accept job offers with low wages, not to mention the minimal net of social guarantees, including the firm’s support in cases of child’s sickness, broken car or a death in the family.

Neglecting the requirements of providing workers with health insurance coverage and the financial support in cases of retirement and dismissal, the modern employers afford themselves to fire workers because of minor mistakes and complaints. Thus, the social-economic situation in the country and personal circumstances in the families with children remain the important precursors of the high rates of the working poor in present day America.

As opposed to Jacksonian era, modern government recognizes the rates of the working poor in families with children as a significant social problem and develops policies for reducing its negative implications. Concentrating their efforts on settling new territories and extending the state boundaries, Jackson and his adherents mostly neglected the social dimension of the community life.

The improvements which were made in this period, including the construction of the railroads affected not all the categories of population and contributed to further development of trade and communication, but were insufficient for solving the burning problem of the working poor.

However, taking into account such burning problems as slavery, slave trade, discrimination of the female and black population, it can be stated that it was too early to speak of imposing strategies for solving the problem of the working poor in Jacksonian era.

In the situation between 1815 and 1848 when children were exploited as cheap labor force and women’s labor was not legalized, setting certain standards for the minimal amount of wages, health insurance coverage and providing other social guarantees was out of the question.

Though modern policymakers pay much more attention to solving the problem of the working poor through implementation of the balanced income distribution, the problem in general and the difficulties experienced by the families with children in particular remains burning for the present day community.

Disregarding the standards set by the government concerning the minimal wages, insurance coverage and other social support for workers, some employers manage to bypass these regulations for the purpose of receiving the financial gains and taking the advantages of the situation with the working poor class that accepts offers which are not consistent with modern standards for earning their living and raising their children.

Disregarding all the efforts which were made for regulating the problem of the working poor class since Jacksonian era, the violation of the government policies by some employers and the intense competition in the labor market do not allow handling the issue of families with children as the working poor in present day America.

Works Cited

Befort, Stephen and John Budd. Invisible Hands, Invisible Objectives: Bringing Workplace Law and Public. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009.Print.

Brady, Judith Ann. A Place at the Table: Justice for the Poor in a Land of Plenty. New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2008. Print.

Crisp, James. Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett’s Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution. Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Hower, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848. Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.


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