Abuse and society

Please see attached
Why Are Some More Vulnerable
Than Others?
Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
• Explain social, political, and economic conditions and trends that contribute to the cre-
ation of food deserts.
• Evaluate how the population of the United States is changing, and consider how this
affects vulnerable populations.
• Analyze how changes in social, political, and economic factors contribute to the vulner-
ability that represents the haves and have-nots.
• Define social capital and how it is related to health.
• Identify political factors that affect health.
• Recognize economic factors that affect health.
Courtesy of JurgaR/iStockphoto
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CHAPTER 3Introduction
Towns and cities have planning and zoning departments within their local govern-ment structures. The Planning and Zoning Department is responsible for ensuring that the city infrastructure, including telephone lines, roads, electricity, and water,
reaches all necessary areas. It is also responsible for the local codes that keep large retailers
like Walmart from moving into residential neighborhoods. Town planning helps mini-
mize traffic on residential streets by creating shopping districts that are near but not in
neighborhoods where people live.
Think about how far the nearest grocery store is from your home. Is it within walking
distance? If so, how do you transport the groceries home? For many Americans, locat-
ing shopping districts outside of neighborhoods creates a need for vehicle transportation
from home to the grocer. Many people living in low-income urban housing lack access to
cars, and public transportation leaves much to be desired in many cities and is completely
absent in many towns. Large retailers need a lot of customers to support the store and a
lot of people to staff it. For this reason, many large grocers avoid urban areas and many
rural areas where there are not a lot of potential customers nearby, opting instead to set up
shop in densely populated suburban areas.
This phenomenon has created a serious problem in many urban areas in cities and small
town centers alike. Food deserts are residential areas with no readily available access to
grocers who carry fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Many residents in food deserts sub-
sist mainly on cheap processed foods that they can purchase at mini-marts and gas sta-
tions. A diet lacking in fresh healthy foods creates long-lasting health problems. As many
food deserts also lack accessible health care, the health of the vulnerable populations in
these areas is doubly impacted.
The food desert issue is one of social, political, and economic factors. Socially, these
areas have needs, such as access to affordable food, shelter, and clean water, that must be
addressed. Politically, it is up to the government to change zoning codes and offer incen-
tives to encourage grocers and health care providers to move into areas in need of access.
Economically, it is difficult for retailers and service providers to grow in economically
depressed areas. This chapter investigates ways in which social, political, and economic
factors increase vulnerability for at-risk populations.
Critical Thinking
Do you live in a food desert? If so, what options do you have for accessing areas with fresh fruits, veg-
etables, and meats?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.1 Portrait of the Nation
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. Which of the following best describes a food desert?
a. a physical desert that lacks food
b.residential areas with no readily available access to grocers who carry fresh
fruits, vegetables, and meats
c. residential areas with no readily available access to water
d. an economically depressed region
2. Why is it bad to locate shopping districts outside of neighborhoods?
a. Not everyone has access to transportation.
b. Locally grown food is more beneficial.
c. People do not connect as closely with grocers.
d. People become reliant on junk food.
3. Besides food, what do many food deserts also lack?
a. gas stations
b. sanitation
c. water
d. health care
Answer Key
1. b 2. a 3. d
3.1 Portrait of the Nation
The population’s needs change as the makeup of the population itself changes. The country is evolving as both the country and the populace age. America has long been known as “the melting pot,” where many people from different cultures live
side by side. Never in the country’s history has this been truer than it is today. A more
diverse populace has more diverse needs, and it is not surprising that some groups have
their needs met more effectively than others.
The U.S. population increased at a rate of 5.3% from 2000 to 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau,
2007). This population growth is attributable to many factors, including more births than
deaths, as well as immigration. It is also compounded by the fact that people live longer
now than ever before. The baby boomer generation, which includes those individuals born
between the years 1946 and 1964, is the largest current generation in the United States. As
the baby boomers enter their senior years, America’s population portrait is aging along
with them. America experienced its highest median age ever at 36.2 on July 1, 2005, and it
is expected to increase as the baby boomer generation ages. Average life expectancy is also
increasing as medical and health science improves. The average American life expectancy
in 1996 was 76 years; it is expected to rise to 82.6 in 2050. The fertility rate is not expected
to change much from the current 2.1 births per adult female; therefore, America’s popula-
tion might see a slight decline when the baby boomer generation dwindles with age (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2007).
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.1 Portrait of the Nation
The ethnic makeup of the United States is changing as well. While America’s largest race
population has historically been Caucasian, census data shows that this population’s
growth rate slowed to just 1% from 2000 to 2005. In contrast, the African American popu-
lation experienced a 6% growth rate during this time, which is higher than the national
average. The Native American and Alaska Native population grew at 7%. America’s
Asian population boomed at 20% growth, and the Hispanic population had the highest
increase at a rate of 21% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). In 2000, Caucasians made up 75.1%
of the American population, and African Americans represented 12.3% of the nation’s
population. By 2010, the percentage of the population identified as Caucasian declined
to 72.4%, while African Americans increased to 12.6% of the population. The percentage
of the population identified as Asian rose from 3.6% in 2000 to 4.8% in 2010 (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2011a). As the population growth rates for minority populations race to catch up
with the Caucasian population total, the growth for Caucasians has slowed. This means
that Caucasians will not be the majority population in the United States for much longer,
and the face of America is becoming increasingly multicultural.
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. What is America’s largest race population?
a. Caucasian
b. African American
c. Asian
d. Hispanic
2. The average American life expectancy is expected to be _______ by 2050.
a. 76.4
b. 82.6
c. 91.3
d. 88.7
3. In 2010, what percentage of the U.S. population was African American?
a. 2%
b. 10%
c. 10.3%
d. 12.6%
Answer Key
1. a 2. b 3. d
Critical Thinking
The makeup and size of the U.S. population is changing rapidly. What challenges do you predict for the
U.S. health care system in the year 2050, assuming that the current trends continue?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.2 How We Live
3.2 How We Live
The makeup of the average American family has changed drastically over the last 40 years. In 1970, 40.3% of the population was married couples with children under age 18. By 2005, this group made up only 23.1% of the population. By 2010, the num-
ber of married couples with children under age 18 further declined to 21% (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2010). The percentage of married couples without children increased from 53%
in 2005 to 58% in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012d). The percent of “other family house-
holds,” composed of single parents, unmarried parents, or extended family households,
rose from 10.6% of the population in 1970 to 16.7% in 2005. Populations of men and women
living alone have also increased slightly, from 5.6% and 11.6%, respectively, to 11.2% and
15.2%, respectively (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). Increases were seen in every “other fam-
ily households” category in the 2010 census, including those with men or women living
alone (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012e).
Children under age 18 composed 24% of the 2010 American population (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2011b). Although the majority (69%) of children in the United States continue to
live with both parents, there has been a significant decline from 85.2% in 1970. The num-
ber of children living with one parent continues to favor the mother, at 10.8% of all chil-
dren in 1970 and 24% in 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011c). In 1970, 1.1% of children lived
with their fathers only. That number rose to 4.8% in 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). In
2011, there were 1.7 million single fathers in the United States, representing 15% of all
single parents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012f).
America’s changing family structures both contribute to and are affected by the changes
in housing, education, and income trends throughout the population. As we will see, the
ties between people have significant effects on vulnerability, as social support can help us
reach our goals and keep us safe. Where we live and our financial situations also affect
vulnerability in terms of resource allocation. Statistically, snapshots of how we live offer
insight into the ways in which per-
sonal resources—housing, educa-
tion, and income—limit or increase
vulnerability. This understanding
allows us to seek ways to address
the needs of those most vulnerable.
Of the 124.4 million housing units in
the United States in 2005, 77.7 mil-
lion were single-family detached
units. Single-family attached units
accounted for 7 million housing
units. In that year, there were 31
million multifamily units. Owner-
occupied homes were the majority,
at 62% of all housing units. Renter-
occupied units made up 28% of all
Courtesy of Dan Barnes/iStockphoto
Almost two thirds of the housing units in the United States
in 2005 were separate, single-family units.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.2 How We Live
housing units. The American Housing Survey (AHS) found that owner-occupied units
were significantly more likely to be appropriately equipped with housing elements such
as safe drinking water, functional plumbing, and cooking appliances.
African Americans are more likely than other ethnic groups to live in housing with severe
deficiencies, such as vermin, continuing water leaks, and exposed wiring (10.4%). Hispan-
ics are a close second at 9.2%. Asians and Caucasians live in dwellings with severe defi-
ciencies at rates of 4.6% and 4.4%, respectively (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, 2012).
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works with local hous-
ing agencies to provide public housing for low-income individuals and families. HUD
estimates that there are around 1.2 million families and individuals living alone that rely
on public housing (2012).
Statistics from 2005 show that Caucasians were most likely to graduate from high school,
and Asians were a close second (90.1% and 87.6%, respectively). African Americans had a
high school graduation rate of 81.1%, while Hispanics were at 58.5% (U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2012).
The United States experienced a record number of individuals with bachelor’s degrees and
higher in 2004 and 2005. The Asian population led in postsecondary education completion
with 50.2%. Caucasians were a distant second at 30.6%. The gap is smaller between Cau-
casians and African Americans, who had a 2005 postsecondary education rate of 17.6%.
Hispanics had the lowest rate at 12% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
Income and Poverty
It is important to consider inflation and the rise in the cost of living when comparing
income across decades. Real median income is middle average income level for the
United States, adjusted for inflation. America’s real median income increased slowly from
$35,379 in 1967 to $46,326 in 2005 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). Figure 3.1 shows the real
median income disparity across America’s most prominent ethnic groups.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.2 How We Live
Figure 3.1: Real median income disparity across ethnic groups
There is a significant disparity between the real median incomes of Asian households and African
American households.
U.S. Census. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/population/www/pop-profile/files/dynamic/MoneyIncome.pdf
African American households had the lowest median income ($30,900). Asian households
had the highest ($61,100). The median for non-Hispanic white households was $50,800.
The median for Hispanic households was $36,000 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007).
Since 1970, the poverty rate in the United States has vacillated around the 12% mark. The
number of people living in poverty is significantly higher than the poverty rate and expe-
riences greater variances. The number of Americans living in poverty was lowest during
the 1970s, staying around 25 million. By the early 1990s, that number had risen to nearly
40 million people. In 2005, an estimated 37 million Americans were living in poverty (U.S.
Census Bureau, 2007).
Critical Thinking
College graduation rates have increased steadily since the 1970s but so, too, have poverty rates. What
do these trends tell us about access to education and poverty? Based on what you read, do you see a
relationship between income and education?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. In 2005, owner-occupied homes were what percentage of all housing units?
a. 32%
b. 45%
c. 62%
d. 78%
2. In 2005, ____ of the college-aged Asian population in the United States had com-
pleted postsecondary education.
a. 50.2%
b. 64.3%
c. 78.9%
d. 98.6%
3. Since 1970, the poverty rate in the United States has vacillated around what
a. 2%
b. 12%
c. 23%
d. 30%
Answer Key
1. c 2. a 3. b
3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
Lucinda and Brad are nurses at a large, urban children’s hospital. One of their cancer patients, a 9-year-old named Josh, took a turn for the worse and was rushed into surgery to stop internal bleeding. At the end of Lucinda and Brad’s work shift, Josh
still had not awoken after surgery, and doctors were concerned that he would not make a
good recovery. Both nurses left work exhausted and with heavy hearts for a patient they
were fond of. Lucinda went home to her toddler and husband. Brad went home to an
empty apartment.
Recall from Chapter 1 that social capital is the measure of interpersonal relationships that
people have with others; to phrase it differently, social capital is the support network of
family and friends who take care of us when we are ill and hug us at the end of a bad
day. In the example, Lucinda has more social capital than Brad because Lucinda is able to
escape the trials of a bad day at work by enjoying the company of her child and husband
through family activities like eating dinner together or playing a game.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
Having people to call on to lend a hand when we need assistance is important to every per-
son’s physical and emotional well-being. Patients with strong support networks are more
likely to recuperate faster and have shorter hospital stays. Parents with family nearby are
more likely to enjoy an occasional night out knowing that their children are well cared for
in their absence. Caring friends and family can offer shelter or financial help when times
are tough. Studies have found that people in at-risk populations generally have less social
capital than those who are not generally part of vulnerable populations.
Vulnerable Mothers and Children
Many American children have parents who work outside the home. For working parents,
child care is a necessity and can be difficult to maintain. Think back to your childhood.
What did you do during the day before beginning primary school? Who did you stay
with? Did your parents or guardians pay for that care, or were you cared for by a family
member who did not charge for the service? When you fell ill, was a parent able to take
off work to stay home with you?
Many people in vulnerable populations lack the type of job stability that allows them to
take off work whenever they might be needed at home. This is particularly problematic
for single parents. It is difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance without a strong,
supportive social network to fill the gaps left by an absent parenting partner. Single par-
ents who can call on friends and relatives to keep their sick children so they can go to work
are more likely to maintain long-term employment.
A look at employment rates of unmarried mothers by race supports the theory that Cauca-
sians are more likely to have more social capital than their peers (Ciabattari, n.d.). Figure
3.2 shows that Caucasian single mothers are more likely to be employed than those of
other ethnic groups.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
Figure 3.2: Employment rates and ethnicity among single mothers
Black and Hispanic single mothers are less likely than their white counterparts to be employed.
U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. (2004). Retrieved from http://www.upjohninst.org/publications/wp/05-118.pdf
Social capital can also affect a person’s health care choices. Married mothers are over
three times more likely than unmarried mothers to receive prenatal care early and often.
Caucasian adults are the group most likely to seek prenatal care during the first trimester.
Studies show that Caucasian women are also the ethnic group that rates highest in social
capital. A strong, supportive network of friends and family is more likely to encourage a
healthy pregnancy and positive attitude than a weak, unsupportive group. In this way, a
person’s social capital can have a negative effect by discouraging early prenatal care and
having negative opinions about the pregnancy. For example, a pregnant 17-year-old in
her senior year of high school may feel that her friends no longer want her around, and
perhaps that her parents don’t want to talk about the pregnancy. This isolating situation
may lead the young mother to make unhealthy choices in diet, medical care, and perhaps
even in drug use as she strives to act as if she is not pregnant in order to fit in with her
peers and pacify or rebel against her parents.
Abused Individuals
One of the earmarks of abuse is withdrawal from friends and family. Abusers often alien-
ate their victims by harassing, bullying, or physically abusing them when they attempt to
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
build or maintain personal relationships. Abuse victims often allow themselves to become
isolated out of shame and a reluctance to be found out. Child abuse victims often have a
tendency to isolate themselves from adults such as teachers as well as from their peers. Iso-
lation is also a significant factor in the difficulty of reporting elder abuse, as many abused
elders have been removed from their homes and away from friends due to physical needs.
Chronically Ill and Disabled Persons
People with strong relationships with others are more likely to maintain healthy lifestyle
habits. For example, married men are more likely to eat healthier and get more exercise than
their unmarried peers. Women
with strong friendships often
encourage each other to take
time for themselves, keep their
bodies healthy, and stay physi-
cally fit. The physical rewards
of quality relationships mitigate
the risk for chronic illness.
Chronic illness and disability
can diminish a person’s social
capital by making it difficult
to maintain relationships. A
marriage or domestic partner-
ship may suffer if one member
is unable to fully participate in
the relationship due to chronic
illness. Chronic diseases and
disabilities can make it diffi-
cult for a person to leave home
to engage in civic groups and
activities or to travel with friends. This can be particularly true with degenerative diseases
like multiple sclerosis (MS). MS causes dysfunction of the nervous system, and symptoms
can range from shaking to paralysis of the limbs. A 47-year-old woman with MS may once
have enjoyed dinners out with friends and romantic weekends away with her partner, but
find it increasingly difficult to leave the house as the disease progresses. Missing the fun
may add to her feelings of isolation, which contribute to her loss of social capital when she
feels disconnected from her friends and partner. When a chronically ill or disabled person
is no longer able to engage in activities with friends and family, that person loses social
capital as those relationships weaken.
Persons Living With HIV/AIDS
During the 1980s, HIV was stigmatized as a “gay men’s” illness. Many families aban-
doned members upon learning of their HIV positive status, leaving them to rely solely
on friends and themselves for help and support as they combated the disease. Though
society now knows that HIV affects people of all races, ages, genders, and behaviors, the
stigma attached to HIV has only slightly dissipated, in part because men who have sex
Courtesy of Silvia Jansen/iStockphoto
It can be difficult to preserve social relationships when one
suffers from a chronic illness or disability.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
with men (MSM) are still the demographic with the highest HIV infection rate. Education
programs within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community focus
on lowering the rate of infection, while specialized community health programs work to
provide emotional support and help obtain appropriate care for people living with HIV/
Though treatments are available to lengthen the life expectancy of HIV/AIDS patients,
the disease is fatal. Death usually follows a prolonged period of serious illness, during
which the patient’s medical care is both costly and time consuming. Many HIV positive
children are born to low-income mothers who lack both the financial and social support
resources to care for the children. HIV positive adults often lose much of their social sup-
port due to both the stigma attached to HIV and the intensity of the illness as their health
fails. These factors contribute to a loss of social capital for people diagnosed with HIV/
AIDS, which makes dealing with the disease significantly more difficult.
Persons Diagnosed With Mental Conditions
Our relationships with other people help define us. People who lack social capital report
higher stress levels and more symptoms of depression and other mental illness than peers
with fulfilling social networks. The disruption of the family unit is associated with mental
conditions that can last an entire lifetime. Many mental conditions, such as depression,
have the negative effect of causing sufferers to withdraw from family and friends. Often,
the more a person withdraws, the worse the illness becomes. Maintaining close personal
ties is closely associated with mental health. Consider the earlier example of the pregnant
17-year-old. In addition to the stress of being pregnant and a teenager, she also now has
the stress of feeling alienated from her friends at a time when her friends should be boost-
ing her self-esteem. All the added stress combined with the loss of close friendships puts
her more at risk for developing depression.
Suicide- and Homicide-Liable Persons
Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2007 at a rate of 11.3 per
100,000 people (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2007). Risk factors for both
suicide and homicide include abusive families, firearms in the home, substance abuse,
and mental disorders. The risk of suicide is significantly increased for those who have a
family history of suicide.
Bullying increases a young person’s suicide risk. This is particularly true for adolescents
who identify as LGBT. However, a strong support network of family, friends, and teach-
ers lessens a young person’s suicide risk by providing the victim of bullying with the
emotional support necessary to maintain his or her positive self-esteem. This is true for
people of all ages and in all situations, not only adolescent bullying victims. Feeling val-
ued by others and having somebody to turn to protects against suicide risk factors. More
important, a person who is suicidal may have friends who can advise him or her to seek
professional help. They may encourage him or her, for example, to contact the National
Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), which is available toll free, 24 hours a day.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
Loss of close relationships and loved ones, in addi-
tion to loss of independence, can cause depression
leading to suicide in the elderly.
Homicide rates are similarly associated with a lack
of social capital. Disconnection from other people,
combined with the trials of economic depression,
creates a deficit of social trust that leads to violent
crime. Gangs prey on members’ needs for social
ties and acceptance and encourage violent behav-
ior as a means to earn respect. Low-income areas
have a higher rate of familial dysfunction, creat-
ing a social situation wherein gangs can thrive
and increasing the homicide rates in these areas.
Persons Affected by Alcohol and
Substance Abuse
Social capital is closely linked to alcoholism and
substance abuse. Evidence exists that a predis-
position to alcoholism may be at least partially
passed genetically from parent to child. Children
who grow up in households where adults abuse
alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use illicit drugs are
significantly more likely to do the same in their
Social capital is also linked to substance abuse in terms of emotional and physical support
gained from close personal relationships. Many people turn to alcohol and illicit drugs as
a coping mechanism to deal with adversity when their needs are not otherwise met. The
people who contribute social capital can also be a strong force in overcoming alcohol and
drug addictions.
Indigent and Homeless Persons
Social isolation and lack of social capital are earmark characteristics of indigent people.
The lack of close social ties contributes directly to the condition of homelessness, as well
as to the many risk factors, such as alcoholism and poverty, that can create homelessness.
Many teenagers who report homelessness cite abusive living situations as the reason for
leaving home. Some of these teens stay for short periods of time with various friends
and relatives but never stay in one place for very long. Many others end up in the streets
because they lack the social capital to find places to stay, meaning nobody is willing to
take them in, care for them, and keep them safe.
Surveys of sheltered homeless report that many adults experiencing homelessness also
experienced homelessness or transient homelessness in childhood. Transient homeless-
ness is a state of being homeless but staying with friends or family for short periods of
Courtesy of Mehmet Dislsiz/Fotolia
In 2007, suicide was the 10th leading cause
of death in the United States. Risk factors
and a disconnect from social interactions
and support can increase a person’s
likelihood of committing suicide.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.3 Social Conditions: Social Capital
time before moving on. The social isolation of indigent people also contributes to diffi-
culty in counting and tracking homelessness in America. Much of the information gath-
ered on the homeless in America comes from surveys of sheltered homeless individuals.
Immigrants and Refugees
Immigrants often leave behind friends and family to come to America. Once here, they
must establish new social networks in order to rebuild social capital. Though many infor-
mal groups exist to help immigrants connect with others from their home countries,
America’s immigration policies are a roadblock to building such social networks. As we
will discuss in later chapters, many immigrants and refugees live in low-income hous-
ing because once they are on American soil, they find a dearth of government resources
to help them establish new lives. Additionally, America’s social attitudes toward foreign
nationals are often isolating.
The mental distress that many refugees experience from having lived through events
such as guerrilla warfare that caused them to seek refuge outside their home countries
also makes it difficult for them to establish new, meaningful relationships. Many legal
immigrants move to the United States to find that they cannot practice their professions
in the United States due to licensing regulations (as is often the case for physicians and
attorneys). Illegal immigrants face similar challenges, as they attempt to stay under law
enforcement’s radar. The mental stress of losing income can lead to loss of self-respect and
the perceived loss of the respect of one’s peers. In addition to legal barriers and barriers
to resources, immigrants to America must also overcome language barriers and differing
customs to build social capital and the benefits that come with it.
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. Which ethnic group is most likely to seek prenatal care during the first trimester?
a. African American
b. Asian
c. Pacific Islander
d. Caucasian
2. What activity increases a young person’s suicide risk?
a. bullying
b. Facebooking
c. dating
d. drug use
Critical Thinking
How would you rate your social capital? Think about who you would turn to if you found yourself in a
predicament. Who could you talk to? Who would you go to for emotional—or even monetary—support?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
3. Surveys of sheltered homeless report that many adults experiencing homeless-
ness also experienced homelessness at what stage of life?
a. childhood
b. early adolescence
c. early adulthood
d. infancy
Answer Key
1. d 2. a 3. a
3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
Social status can improve with higher amounts of social capital and human capital. It can also decline if the same factors decline. A person with a high level of education, reasonable wealth, steady employment, and strong family and friend connections
has more social status than a low-income individual with little education and no wealth.
Social status is also tied to age. The very young and the very old hold less social status
in our society because they are dependent on others for help with daily living. Race also
affects social status, for both socioeconomic reasons and the history of discrimination as
well as discriminatory attitudes that still exist in American culture. Gender is tied to social
status in much the same way that race is. African Americans were formally given the right
to vote by the 15th Amendment in 1870, whereas women did not receive that right until
the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920. This fact alone shows that gender and politics
are strongly intertwined.
Vulnerable Mothers and Children
Social status plays a fundamental role in the lives of high-risk mothers and infants. Afri-
can Americans had the highest rate of teen pregnancy until 2005, when the teen birthrate
among the Hispanic population bypassed that of African Americans. Figure 3.3 illustrates
recorded teen birthrates by race.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
Figure 3.3: Teen births by ethnicity
While white, black, and Hispanic teens have similarly high rates of teen pregnancy, American Indian/
Alaska Native and Asian/Pacific Islander teens each give birth to less than 10,000 children each year.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr60/nvsr60_01.pdf#table15
African Americans have the highest rate of gestational hypertension, or high blood pres-
sure during pregnancy (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2012a). This
might be due to a genetic predisposition, but lifestyle choices linked to area of residence
cannot be ignored. Many food deserts are in urban areas populated by low-income Afri-
can Americans, many of whom are high-risk mothers. Unemployment; unsafe housing
and neighborhoods; lack of access to fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and lean meats; and
lack of health care access are also all likely contributors to the high fetal mortality rate
among African American women. Lack of social status and lack of human capital are
closely linked in the lives of high-risk mothers and babies.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
Abused Individuals
Abuse is about power and the roles people play within relationships. As discussed,
the very young and very old lack social status partly because they depend on others for
their daily care. This puts them
at a distinct disadvantage within
the social structure of any rela-
tionship, most especially those
with caregivers.
Social workers and clinicians
report a significant trend in
intimate partner abuse wherein
the victim is somehow of lesser
social status than the offender.
The difference in status may
result from financial inequal-
ity (for example, the victim is
financially dependent upon the
abuser) or even from a differ-
ence in education levels. Many
reports indicate that social ide-
ology about the woman’s role in
the household (tend the home
and children, obey the man), the
“right” way for men to act (strong, in control, and domineering), and the way children
should behave (seen-not-heard, obedient) contributes to the power disparity that allows
for abusive situations to occur.
Chronically Ill and Disabled Persons
The most severely disabled children rely heavily on help from adults to achieve basic
activities of daily living, and many continue to do so into adulthood. Chronically ill and
disabled adults may find it difficult to maintain employment. The U.S. Census Bureau
reports that 9.9% of people ages 16 to 64 in the noninstitutionalized population reported
disabilities in 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). Of the population reporting disabilities,
17.8% were employed in 2011, compared with 63.6% of the population with no reported
disabilities in the same year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012).
Vulnerable populations are at increased risk for negative outcomes regarding chronic ill-
ness and disability. Lack of health care access and the living conditions associated with
poverty put vulnerable groups at increased risk for developing chronic illnesses and dis-
abilities. Lack of social and human capital makes it more difficult for them to cope with
long-term ailments. In this way, the very young and very old who suffer chronic condi-
tions are particularly vulnerable.
Courtesy of Goodshoot/Thinkstock
Society’s endorsement of strict gender roles and the way
children should behave may contribute to the unbalanced
power dynamic that make abusive situations possible.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
Persons Diagnosed With HIV/AIDS
HIV is more prevalent in low socioeconomic
urban areas than in neighborhoods with higher
levels of education and income. Injection drug
users have the second highest HIV/AIDS inci-
dence, and injection drug use is rampant in
America’s economically depressed areas. The
number of minorities living with HIV/AIDS is
due to the prevalence of minorities in economi-
cally depressed urban areas, as well as the higher
rate of injectable drug use among many young
minorities. As low-income urban neighborhoods
have higher numbers of minority residents, lack
of access to preventive education programs and
health care increases the HIV/AIDS transmit-
tal rate among the socially and economically
Persons Diagnosed With Mental
Childhood events help shape mental health later
in life. Children dealing with poverty, family dis-
ruption, abuse, chronic illness, or minority group
status are more likely to exhibit symptoms of
mental illness. Many symptoms of mental con-
ditions first appear in adolescence, a time when
young people’s bodies and minds are rapidly changing. The Administration for Children,
Youth, and Families reports that single mothers raising children in poverty have a particu-
larly high incidence of mental illness due to the stressors associated with their situations.
While situational stressors resulting from social status can induce mental illness, so too
can mental illness reduce a person’s social status. Withdrawal from friends and family can
cause a loss of social capital that contributes to a loss of social status. Maintaining employ-
ment can be impossible in cases of severe mental illness. Loss of income and dependency
on others for financial support reduces a person’s social status.
Suicide- and Homicide-Liable Persons
Social status based on race, gender, education and income levels, and power directly influ-
ences violence. Intimate partner abuse is based on the power differences between those in
the relationship. Children and the elderly have less social status than people ages 20 to 65,
who are more likely to be abusers. Disadvantaged minority groups have higher suicide
and homicide rates than members of higher social standing.
Courtesy of Peeter Viisimaa/iStockphoto
A large number of the people living
with HIV/AIDS are minorities. This may
be due to the fact that injectable drug
use, prevalent in low-income, minority-
populated areas, is the second leading
cause of HIV/AIDS infection.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
Hispanics’ moderate suicide rates are attributed to a communal respect for family. His-
panics with risk factors, including substance abuse, mental conditions, low human cap-
ital, and broken families, have higher suicide and homicide rates than those with few
risk factors.
Suicide and homicide in Alaska Native and Native American communities are associated
with broken communities and the disintegration of their traditional cultures and family
structures. These communities are plagued with the effects of systemic economic depres-
sion. Suicide and homicide risks for this ethnic group include mental illness, family vio-
lence, and substance abuse.
Persons Affected by Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Adolescents experience increased risk for experimenting with alcohol and other sub-
stances because, at this developmental stage of life, they are testing boundaries and are
eager to fit in with their peer group. Adolescents with risk factors, including family vio-
lence, poor educational opportunities, and pov-
erty, are significantly more likely to try and to
continue use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit
drugs. The effects of these substances on devel-
oping brains add to the likelihood of continued
use and considerably negative outcomes.
The elderly occupy a similar rung on the social
status ladder as adolescents. Though alcohol-
ism and substance abuse rates are lowest among
the elderly, access to habit-forming prescription
drugs increases their risk of substance abuse.
Separation from family and friends, loss of
intimate partners and independence, and the
depression associated with leaving a lifelong
home contribute to alcoholism and substance
abuse by the elderly.
Social status associated with gender and eth-
nicity also contributes to alcohol and substance
abuse. Individuals may be influenced by cul-
tural norms to use certain drugs or alcohol,
such as Native Americans who use peyote for religious purposes. Similarly, expected
gender roles and idealized concepts of self contribute to a person’s likelihood to use
drugs and alcohol.
Indigent and Homeless Persons
The global economic recession of the early 2000s saw many middle-class Americans lose
their jobs and slip into poverty. As people struggled to stay in their homes, a mortgage
crisis erupted, fueled by illegal and unethical lending and foreclosure practices. The strain
on America’s low-income housing programs increased, while government spending on
Courtesy of Digital Vision/Thinkstock
The pressure of adhering to societal gender
roles and entertaining an embellished sense
of self contributes to a person’s likelihood to
use alcohol and drugs.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.4 Political Conditions: Social Status
social welfare programs decreased. Becoming unemployed and losing a home creates a
loss of social status that affects most aspects of one’s life.
Homeless children are particularly vulnerable to deficiencies in health care and poor nutri-
tion. They are also more likely to experience mental distress and have many unexcused
school absences. These factors hinder a child’s ability to gain a meaningful and complete
education, contributing to low human capital later in life.
Like the number of homeless family units, the number of unaccompanied youth is also
growing. Counting both those who are part of homeless family units and unaccompa-
nied homeless youth, estimates put the annual number of children experiencing home-
lessness for at least one night around 1.6 million (Paquette, 2010). Many unaccompanied
homeless youth are runaways, but a great many have been expelled from their homes
or family units by adults. A majority of these young homeless are fleeing severe mental,
physical, and sexual abuse. Abuse is also a driving factor in the homelessness of women
and minorities. Once homeless, women become particularly vulnerable to drug abuse,
assault, unwanted pregnancies, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and negative health out-
comes. Homeless women and children’s particular vulnerability creates an even greater
social status deficit for these individuals, which greatly increases their risk of disease.
Immigrants and Refugees
Even well-educated immigrants to America experience a loss of social status due to lan-
guage barriers, cultural differences, and negative social attitudes regarding immigration
and particular ethnicities. The loss of social capital caused by leaving one’s home coun-
try also contributes to a loss of social status. Many refugees find it difficult to subsist
in a country where very few people grow their own food and build their own shelter,
especially when they come from regions where the ability to do so was the foundation of
social status and life. Refugees fleeing wars in Somalia and Liberia often find it difficult
to transition to a lifestyle where food comes wrapped in plastic and everybody wants an
enormous house.
Female refugees are particularly vulnerable, as many are uneducated and do not speak
English at all. Refugee women and children often suffer severe emotional distress caused
by the brutality from which they are fleeing. Depression as well as language and education
barriers make it difficult to build new relationships and access programs and resources
that ease the strain of building a life in a foreign place. As many refugees come from
impoverished regions, they often arrive with serious health care needs. The American
health care system is particularly difficult to navigate if you do not speak its language.
Critical Thinking
Mental illness, family violence, and substance abuse are contributing risk factors of suicide in Alaska
Natives and Native Americans. Based on what you have read, why do you think these are higher factors
for Alaska Natives and Native Americans than for other ethnic groups?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. Because they depend on others for their daily care, the very young and the very
old lack what kind of status?
a. economic
b. political
c. social
d. familial
2. Injection drug users have the second highest rate of ____________
b. suicide.
c. infant mortality.
d. homelessness.
3. Even well-educated immigrants to America experience a loss of social status due
to what type of barriers?
a. political
b. economic
c. physical
d. language
Answer Key
1. c 2. a 3. d
3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
An individual’s human capital is measured by level of completed education, employ-ment status and position, and living conditions. These factors are tied together because a person’s ability to maintain a high-paying job increases relative to how
much he or she has invested in his or her education. For example, consider the fact that
a child’s ability to learn during the school day is directly tied to both the condition of
the school and the education offered, which are both tied to society’s investment in the
school by way of government funding. For both children and adults, public and private
investment in the living conditions of neighborhoods and housing units deeply affects all
aspects of life, from the ability to focus during the school day to the ability to maintain
viable employment. Economic conditions directly affect human capital, and vice versa.
Vulnerable Mothers and Children
Human capital is directly linked to the timing and quality of prenatal care, the ability of
the mother to recuperate after the birth, and the ability of the mother to care for the infant.
Low-income regions have a lower rate of early and sufficient prenatal care than wealthier
areas. Mothers living at or below the poverty line are significantly less likely to receive
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
any prenatal care at all. A 1988 study found that only 53% of expectant mothers with less
than a high school diploma sought early prenatal care, compared with 92% of expectant
mothers with at least some college education (CDC, 2012c).
Abused Individuals
Though abused individuals exist at all socioeconomic levels, there is a direct causal rela-
tionship between poverty and lack of education and reported abuse. This is thought to be
due to the additional stresses associated with inadequate housing and food, the perils of
dangerous neighborhoods, and increased violence and drug abuse rates in low-income
neighborhoods. The risk of abuse increases when the offender has more education and
income than the victim, as the disparity in human capital causes a disparity in social status.
Chronically Ill and Disabled Persons
America’s public school systems are intended to provide education for all children,
regardless of aptitude. Most public schools offer specialized programs for children with
disabilities. The focus of these programs is basic knowledge and daily living skills
rather than the dissemination of advanced theories and thought processes. In this way,
America invests in the education of disabled children. America also invests in disabled
individuals through the Social Security system. The Supplemental Security Income
program (SSI) provides financial support for disabled citizens. However, that program
pays very little. Most people who depend on SSI also rely on government aid for hous-
ing and food. As poverty puts people more at risk for developing chronic illness and
disabilities, conditions which in turn contribute to personal poverty, health vulnerabil-
ity poses a particularly distressing situation for at-risk populations. More investment in
human capital by way of neighborhood improvements and education funding for low-
income neighborhoods is necessary to stop this cycle.
Persons Diagnosed With
The financial cost of HIV/AIDS
treatments is unmanageable for
many patients, even those with
health insurance coverage. How-
ever, treatments are more effec-
tive and less costly the earlier
they are begun (U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services,
Agency for Health Care Research
and Quality, 2011). Though the
civil rights bill specifically for-
bids termination from a job
based on HIV status, the effects
of the disease can make it diffi-
cult to maintain employment. As
Courtesy of Thomas Norcut/Thinkstock
Federal funds and resources are available to help people living
with HIV/AIDS.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
many HIV/AIDS patients belong to low-income vulnerable groups, education and income
levels were likely low before the onset of the disease. Low-paying jobs and loss of employ-
ment put people at risk for losing health insurance coverage and health care access.
The United States offers several federally funded resources to help those living with
HIV/AIDS. Low-income HIV/AIDS patients are eligible for both housing assistance
and disability-based income assistance through the federal government. The Ryan
White HIV/AIDS Program, administered by the Health Resources and Services Admin-
istration, provides funding to states and community-based organizations to improve
health care access and provide life-saving medications for HIV/AIDS patients in low-
income areas.
Persons Diagnosed With Mental Conditions
Mental illness is more prevalent among low-income groups, but the causal relationship
between poverty and mental illness is uncertain. The social stress theory posits that the
stressors experienced by low socioeconomic groups—inadequate housing, drug abuse,
neighborhood crime, lack of education, and unemployment and underemployment—
cause mental health disorders. The opposing argument is the social selection theory,
which argues that mental illness causes people to fall into low socioeconomic status.
Generally speaking, both theories are correct. The problems caused by poverty cause high
stress levels, which can lead to adverse mental health outcomes. At the same time, the
onset of mental illness can cause a person to withdraw from society and have difficulty
maintaining gainful employment, causing the individual to lose socioeconomic status.
Suicide- and Homicide-Liable Persons
Low income and education levels can create competition for resources, including afford-
able housing and jobs. Many low-income neighborhoods lack the human capital neces-
sary for improvement and, as such, experience a faster rate of deterioration than higher
socioeconomic areas. As businesses vacate economically depressed regions, they take
employment opportunities with them, further limiting investment in the community. This
trend correlates to urban ghettoization, which in turn correlates to increased violence.
Suicide among males is nearly four times the rate of suicide among females (CDC, 2010).
Native American and Alaska Native males have the highest suicide rate, which is attrib-
uted to social beliefs and low socioeconomic status within those cultures (CDC, 2012b).
Caucasian males have the second highest suicide rate, which is attributed to internalized
frustration and a perceived loss of power in response to changing social expectations.
A Closer Look: National HIV/AIDS Strategy
President Barack Obama implemented the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) on July 13, 2010. NHAS
was implemented to reduce the amount of new HIV infections annually, restrict the HIV transmittal
rate, and improve health care access for those living with HIV/AIDS. For information on ways NHAS is
addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, visit the White House Office of National AIDS Policy NHAS website
at http://www.aids.gov.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
In contrast, African American males of the same age group are more likely to externalize
frustrations with the social deficits in education and employment opportunities plaguing
this group. This externalization contributes to increased homicide rates among African
American males. Rates of violent crime types differ between ethnic groups, partially due
to the internalizing versus externalizing responses to social constraints and the issues fac-
ing different ethnic groups (see Figure 3.4).
Figure 3.4: Violent crime by ethnic group
Aggravated assault is the most commonly committed violent crime across all ethnic groups.
U.S. Census. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0325.pdf
Persons Affected by Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Varying levels of human capital contribute to differences in alcohol and drug abuse. Ciga-
rette use is inversely related to education and income levels. The opposite is true with alco-
hol use, which increases with education and income levels (CDC, 2012c). Different illicit
drugs are favored by members of different socioeconomic groups. In the 1980s, cocaine
was associated with wealth, whereas crack continues to be more accessible to those of low
socioeconomic standing. Methamphetamine is thought of as “a poor man’s drug” because
it is inexpensive to make. However, it is so highly addictive that methamphetamine use is
growing among all socioeconomic groups.
Substance abuse is higher in economically depressed areas where underemployment and
unemployment are rampant. The causal relationship between employment status and
drug abuse is multidirectional. Substance abuse can create an environment where gainful
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
employment cannot be maintained. It is also used by many as a coping mechanism for
dealing with economic disparity and the loss of self-esteem associated with underemploy-
ment and unemployment.
Figure 3.5: Methamphetamine prevalence of abuse among 8th to 12th graders
10th graders have a higher incidence of methamphetamine use than 8th or 12th graders across all three
measured time periods.
National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA]. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/infofacts/methamphetamine
A Closer Look: Monitoring Methamphetamine
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health began monitoring school-age children for methamphet-
amine use in 1999. As Figure 3.5 shows, reported methamphetamine use is declining among American
children. This positive trend is attributable in part to preventive education programs that aim to keep
children from trying methamphetamine even once. These programs are important because metham-
phetamine is highly addictive, and many addicted users claim to have become addicted after just one
use (National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2010).
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
Indigent and Homeless Persons
A trend has been established that differentiates the current condition of homelessness
from the homeless experience between 1950 and 1970. During that time, a majority of
homeless people did have shelter, however inadequate it might have been. As the home-
less rate increases and government spending on social welfare programs struggles to keep
up, the current homelessness experience is significantly more likely to involve actually
sleeping outdoors.
America’s subsidized low-income housing has aged, and little has been done to remedy
the inadequacies of faulty wiring, disintegrating roofs, and rusted plumbing. Instead
of renovating crumbling structures, much of America’s low-income housing has been
demolished to make way for trendy, new urban homes for the upper-middle class. This
is directly responsible for the diminished availability of affordable housing in socioeco-
nomically depressed neighborhoods.
At the same time that America’s low-income housing began being replaced by more
expensive options, federal funding for social welfare programs and housing subsidies
began a steady decline. Housing subsidies were cut 80% from 1980 to 1989. State and fed-
eral governments have continued to struggle with paying for housing subsidies and other
social welfare programs, while tax income has decreased due to rampant unemployment
and corporate tax incentives.
Immigrants and Refugees
There are essentially three immigrant statuses in America. Overdocumented immigrants
have official refugee status. This term reflects the large amount of screening and paper-
work required of this group to prove the health status and the ability to support them-
selves. Undocumented immigrants are often referred to as “illegal aliens” and have not
completed the official immigra-
tion process. Documented immi-
grants have come to the United
States through legal channels but
have not had to undergo the rigor-
ous level of screening experienced
by refugees or overdocumented
Of these three types, undocumented
immigrants have the least amount
of human capital. Many cross the
border from Mexico to escape that
country’s violent drug war and
seek employment. In response, the
U.S. federal government seeks to
control illegal immigration through
the 1986 Immigration Reform and
Control Act.
Courtesy of Richard Thronton/Shutterstock
Undocumented immigrants lack much of the human capital
necessary to feel productive and included in society.
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
The flow of illegal immigration into the United States and frustration over current fed-
eral immigration laws have resulted in many states, including Arizona, enacting laws
to address the increasing number of illegal immigrants in their states. In 2010, the Ari-
zona legislature enacted stringent immigration laws. The Arizona law does not allow law
enforcement officers to stop someone just to check on documentation papers, but officers
may ask for documentation papers if someone is stopped for some other violation of the
law. Suspected illegal immigrants are turned over to the Federal Immigration Services. In
response to Arizona legislation, President Obama called on Congress to overhaul federal
immigration laws that would clearly restrict state powers regarding illegal immigration.
Even as Americans argue over immigration law, undocumented immigrants continue to
hold the country’s lowest paying, least desirable jobs. Many work in hot, dusty fields as
agricultural day laborers. They are paid in cash and are not provided with any stability,
security, or benefits. Still, many seek the shelter of America’s slums over the bloodshed
and economic instability of their home countries.
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. Among young people aged 15–24, almost six times more males than females
commit what act?
a. murder
b. rape
c. suicide
d. abandonment
2. What directly affects human capital?
a. economic conditions
b. political conditions
c. weather conditions
d. stock market conditions
3. Which group of immigrants has the least amount of human capital?
a. overdocumented immigrants
b. undocumented immigrants
c. married immigrants
d. female immigrants
Answer Key
1. c 2. a 3. b
Critical Thinking
Arizona’s 2010 immigration law has become a hotly debated topic. Do you think states or the federal
government should have authority over enforcing immigration violations?
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CHAPTER 3Section 3.5 Economic Conditions: Human Capital
Case Study: Food Deserts Put Children at Risk for Lifelong Health Problems
It’s 8:00 on a humid Saturday morning in August, and a group of volun-
teers is gathering with spades, shovels, buckets, and gardening gloves.
Their mission: Build a community garden that will both provide a source
of fresh produce in a low-income neighborhood and teach local residents
how they can improve their health with a little effort and a lot of sun-
light. As they work, children walk over to stare and wonder. The volun-
teers invite the kids over and begin explaining how to grow tomatoes. The
children’s mothers arrive, checking on their little ones, and the gardeners
take advantage of the opportunity to engage the resident adults in the
community garden. The volunteers explain that not only will the garden
provide fresh, healthy food, but those who contribute to the work will also
be engaging in pleasant exercise as they till and weed.
These volunteers are part of a nationwide movement to improve eating
and exercise habits across the nation, and especially in underserved areas.
Teaching healthy eating habits is fundamental to progress as America
works to do away with food deserts and combat childhood obesity. Com-
munity programs, such as Food is Elementary, and urban gardens work to
encourage children to make healthy eating choices and to help their fami-
lies do the same. Simply building grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods is not enough. Healthy
eating habits are much like the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
That is why First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign worked not only to encourage children
and adults to adopt healthier lifestyles, but also funded public programs that gave people the skills to
make healthy lifestyle choices and positively affected public policy that increased access to fresh fruits
and vegetables to residents in low-income areas.
Most of America’s food deserts are located in low-income areas. A study published in Rural Sociology in
2009 studied the body mass index (BMI) of students living in identified food deserts in rural Pennsylva-
nia. Researchers found students who reside in identified food deserts have a higher rate of obesity than
their peers who live in non food desert areas (Schafft, Jensen, & Hinrichs, 2009).
This research drives home the fact that food deserts do not completely lack access to food of any sort.
Rather, food deserts are marked by a lack of fresh, healthy foods. Convenience stores that stock pro-
cessed foods with long shelf lives do exist in food deserts. So, too, do fast-food restaurants that serve
processed meals, which are high in fat, sugar, and cholesterol.
A diet that relies on high-fat, processed food is more likely to create obesity than a diet rich in fresh
fruits, fresh vegetables, and lean meats. Obesity contributes to a range of health problems, including
heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. Childhood obesity predisposes America’s youth to chronic dis-
eases early in life. As eating habits are difficult to change, it is likely that the overweight children of today
will grow into obese adults. Obesity, and the health risks associated with it, puts an increasing strain on
America’s health care delivery system.
Courtesy of cheitt/fotolia
Neighborhoods without
access to fresh fruits,
vegetables, meat, and
other healthy foods are
known as food deserts.
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CHAPTER 3Self-Check
Chapter Summary
Negative health outcomes are caused by factors on both micro and macro levels of society. Social capital refers to the social factors and resources that people rely on for emotional support and help through hard times. Close family ties can alleviate
stress, lessening the risk of developing mental conditions. Strong social networks provide
help with everything from child care to finding gainful employment. The political factors
that affect health are based on the social status of the individual and the groups they are
associated with. Women, children, and the elderly are particularly vulnerable regarding
social status factors. Human capital is greatly enhanced by high levels of social status, as
higher social-status groups generally have more education and income to invest in them-
selves and others. There is a defined spectrum of social, political, and economic factors
and vulnerability that represents the haves and have-nots.
Answer the following questions to the best of your ability.
1. The average American life expectancy is expected to rise to 82.6 in 2050. True or
a. True
b. False
2. During the 1980s, HIV was stigmatized as what type of illness?
a. “single man’s” illness
b. “old man’s” illness
c. “gay man’s” illness
d. “married man’s” illness
3. Which two communities are associated with high suicide risk due to broken com-
munities and the disintegration of their traditional cultures and family struc-
tures? (Select two.)
a. Hispanic
b. Alaska Native
c. Native American
d. Caucasian
Critical Thinking
Community gardens have been one response to the food desert issue, but in most locations, gardens
are not a year-round solution. Water availability can also be a major obstacle. If you had the power to
make real and substantial changes to increase access to fresher and healthier foods in a food desert
community, what would you do and why?
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CHAPTER 3Additional Resources
4. Which social ideologies contribute to the power disparity that allows for abusive
situations to occur? (Select three.)
a. gun ownership as an exercise of the right to bear arms
b.the woman’s role in the household (tend the home and children, obedience
to the man)
c. the “right” way for men to act (strong, in control, and domineering)
d. political beliefs (Republican or Democrat)
5. Tax income for housing subsidies and welfare programs has decreased due to
what factor(s)?
a. rampant unemployment
b. corporate tax incentives
c. understaffed government housing offices
d. A and B only
6. First Lady Michelle Obama started the ____________ campaign to encourage
healthier lifestyles.
a. Let’s Move!
b. Walk Your Dog!
c. Smart Choices
d. Chefs in Schools
Answer Key
1. a 2. c3. b and c 4. a, b, and c5. d6. a
Additional Resources
Visit the following websites to learn more about the topics covered in this chapter:
Food is Elementary program
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign
USDA’s interactive food desert map
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CHAPTER 3Key Terms
Web Exercise
Using the three websites listed in this section, discuss the following in a two-page paper:
• Define and identify a food desert and what criteria the USDA uses to determine
where food deserts are located. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/fooddesert/
• What progress has been made regarding whether food deserts are problematic in the
United States? (http://www.npc.umich.edu/news/events/food-access/final_bitler
• Discuss alternative solutions. (http://www.economist.com/node/18929190)
Key Terms
documented immigrant An immigrant
who has come to the United States through
legal channels but has not had to undergo
the rigorous level of screening experi-
enced by refugees or overdocumented
food deserts Residential areas without
readily available access to grocers who
carry fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats.
gestational hypertension High blood
pressure during pregnancy.
overdocumented immigrant A legal
immigrant to the United States that has
official refugee status.
real median income The middle aver-
age income level for the United States,
adjusted for inflation.
Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program A fed-
eral program administered by the Health
Resources and Services Administration
that provides funding to states and com-
munity-based organizations to improve
health care access and provide life-saving
medications for HIV/AIDS patients in
low-income areas.
social selection theory The argument that
mental illness causes people to fall into
low socioeconomic status.
social stress theory The argument that
the stressors experienced by low socio-
economic groups cause mental health
Supplemental Security Income program
(SSI) A federal program administered
by the Social Security administration that
provides financial support for disabled
transient homelessness A state of home-
lessness wherein the affected individuals
move from home to home, often staying
with various family or friends for short
periods of time before moving on.
undocumented immigrant Often referred
to as “illegal aliens,” immigrants from
countries outside the United States or its
territories who have not completed the
official immigration process.
bur25613_03_c03_079-110.indd 109 11/26/12 10:31 AM
bur25613_03_c03_079-110.indd 110 11/26/12 10:31 AM
Week 2 – Discussion 1

Social Versus Human Capital
This week’s first discussion forum will focus on the population of abused individuals. Abuse is a pervasive problem in our society. Although the forms of abuse, as well as the intensity and duration can vary from case to case, each abused person is tasked with dealing with the scars left from the abuse. As you can imagine, this task can be very challenging to say the least. Using research to help you form an opinion, which form of capital (social or human capital) do you feel will have a greater influence over resources accessible to the abused? Discuss which form of capital you would rely on for emotional support and help through difficult times if abused. Explain your rationale. Chapter 3 of the course text defines these terms in more detail.
Your initial contribution should be 250 to 300 words in length. Your research and claims must be supported by your course text and at least one other scholarly source. Use proper APA formatting for in-text citations and references as outlined in the Writing Center.
Guided Response:Review several of your classmates’ posts. Provide a substantive response (minimum of 100 words) to at least two of your peers. Respond to one peer who chose the same form of capital as you and one who chose the opposite form. What are some of the differences and/or similarities between your decisions to choose one form over the other?
In our Discussion 1 this week, we are covering abuse. The different types of abuse that quickly come to mind are child abuse, domestic partner abuse – which is often perceived as men abusing women, and elder abuse. There are a couple of other angles you can explore if you wish. In domestic abuse, men are often the victims instead of the woman, but the reporting is far less. The video below is a great example of why.Another angle to explore is teen relationships. This tends to fall under domestic abuse but doesn’t get much attention because we don’t want to consider our children being in a relationship, let alone an abusive relationship.
Reaction To Women Abusing Men In Public(Links to an external site.)
When answering the questions be sure to use your critical thinking skills, be sure to use and cite references to give your response merit.
Dr. Rebecca

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