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AP US Government and Poverty

How does the poverty rate in the U.S. Compare with other OECD* (wealthy) countries?

*The OECD, or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, was founded in 1948 and is made up of 36 member countries. It seeks to improve the economic and social well-being of countries and their populations. The OECD looks at issues that impact people’s everyday lives and proposes policies that can help to improve the quality of life.

  1. How accurate was your ridiculous prediction?

  2. Why do you think your guess was so wrong?

  3. How do you think the average American would answer this question?

  4. What story does this chart tell about poverty and the United States?

  5. Based on what you know about American history, politics, and political ideology, why do you think America’s poverty rate is the highest of the wealthy world?

  6. How does this high poverty rate impact American politics?

  7. Is this information good news or bad news?

  8. Are you proud that our poverty rate is three times higher than the Czech Republic?

  9. Describe one policy could lower the poverty rate.

  10. Describe one policy that could raise the poverty rate.

  11. In general, explain whether the policies of the current president will increase or decrease the poverty rate.

  12. Describe one method the U.S. president can use to make policy about Poverty?

  13. Describe one method the U.S. Congress can use to make policy. about poverty?

  14. List three departments or agencies of the U.S. bureaucracy that deal with poverty in America.

  15. Imagine that you were an interest group whose goal was to lower poverty. Describe two methods you might use to try to achieve your goals.

  16. Imagine that the average American knew the information from the chart above. Explain How that knowledge would alter American policy regarding poverty?

  17. The Pew Research Center has found that among Americans in families making less than $10,000 (the lowest income group they studied), 24.5 percent voted. Why do you think such a low rate of people with a low socioeconomic status vote?*

  18. What is one consequence of this low voter turnout?

  19. We also know that voting rates go up with income levels — the highest-income group, people in families making $150,000 or more, also had the highest turnout, at 56.6 percent. Why do you think increased income leads to increased voter turnout?*

  20. What is one policy change that would occur if the voting rate for poor and wealthy voters flip-flopped?

  21. How has the U.S. poverty rate changed over the past 50 years?*

  22. How does race and ethnicity impact the poverty rate in the U.S.? *

  23. The Preamble of the United States Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (their spelling not mine!), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Based on the poverty statistics above, does our government succeed at promoting the general welfare?

  24. If you could wave a magic wand and make the U.S. poverty rate (17.8% of all people) similar to that of Finland (5.8%), what would be a consequence of this change?

  25. Elizabeth Warren and other presidential candidates have proposed a 2% wealth tax, that would, among other things, lead to a decrease in the poverty rate. Make a claim about whether this wealth tax would be a good idea.

  26. A student named Ichabod, upon analyzing the data from the chart above said, “America is the land of opportunity. If you are poor in America it’s your own darned fault.” Respond to Ichabod’s claim.

  27. What claim would the following people make about the American poverty rate?

  • Typical American Conservative

  • Typical American Liberal

  • Typical American Libertarian

  • Typical American Socialist

  • Felicity Huffman

  • Typical American Democrat

  • Typical American Republican

  • The Current American President

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Check out all this cool Pew Research Center visual data on U.S. poverty and politics.

Action Extension

Ask three other people (in person) to predict how American poverty compares with the rich world. Then share the answer with them. Share their reaction on line or in class.

Cats Ringing a Bell for Dinner Extension