Media vs. Reality: Poverty in America.
One of the most pressing issues facing Americans today is the persistence of poverty. Despite the fact that the United States is one of the most affluent nation's in the world, poverty continues unabated. The victims of this horrible plague consist of men, women, children and the aged. No group can claim immunity from the vicissitudes of indigence, nor can our society claim that want is the province of a few. However, when most Americans think about the poor their perceptions are not color-blind. Most often, the underclass is seen as a body that is comprised of minorities of African or Hispanic descent. Yet, Euro-Americans are 66% of the poor population in the United States. While many downplay this statistic it cannot be avoided. This statistic is not meant to downplay the problems associated with being a minority in poverty, it is simply meant to highlight the discrepancy between perception and reality. To test my hypothesis I examined three newspapers: the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. I found that in stories about poverty, minorities are over-represented in proportion to their percentage of the poor population. The portrayal by the media of minorities as overwhelmingly in poverty creates an image of the minority as culturally deficient. Since most Americans feel that poverty is a result of individual failings, this leads to the harsh conclusion that minorities are afflicted by their own lack of initiative and not by the structural causes imbedded in the fabric of American society.
Leon, Bradley, "Media vs. Reality: Poverty in America." (1999). URC Student Scholarship.