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Rural Families - Poverty And Economic Struggle

single parent family percent children family african

Understanding rural poverty has never been easy. Internationally, one out of every five individuals is affected by poverty (Lipton and Ravallion 1995). Whether a person is poor is influenced by whether one is male or female, cultural background, where one lives (rural versus urban), and age. We now know that in families, children and mothers usually are more likely to be impoverished than are fathers (Khan 2000). In small country areas, minority and small church groups face more poverty than the majority groups. Rural families have often had more economic challenges than their urban counterparts. According to Mahmood Hasan Khan (2000) most of the poverty in the world (63%) is located in rural areas. Internationally, in China and Bangladesh, rural poverty has at times increased to 90 percent and has fluctuated from 70 to 90 percent in parts of Africa.

Agricultural centers are characteristic of rural communities that are making limited industrial or professional progress (MacNair 1999). Agricultural companies in these settings often are combined with small processing plants and distribution centers. Small businessmen generally provide the local leadership and traditionally have family ties to the community. Endeavors to change or bring in new industry are often attempted by local businessmen and women and community planners, but these efforts are short lived and seldom successful. Conversely, religious institutions may provide resources, hope, and a sense of working together against the poverty that is indicative of rural life for many families.

Poverty, historically, has been an ongoing theme for many rural families both in the United States and internationally. In the United States rural poverty endures on small family farms, in remote county communities, and in a multitude of trailer parks (Fitchen 1998).

Ginsberg (1998) reports that poverty for minority populations remained about the same during the last decade of the twentieth century. The overall poverty rate in the United States in 1990 was mostly linked to whites: 71.3 percent of the people living in poverty are white, 25 percent are African American, and 5.6 percent are Hispanic. The rural population stands in exception to these general figures; poverty rates are altogether different among rural populations. The poverty rate for rural whites is 13.5 percent; for rural African Americans, 40.8 percent; for rural Hispanics, 32 percent; and for rural Native Americans, 30 percent. These statistics take on new meaning when rural families are headed by women.

In rural areas families with a female head of household are generally very poor (Lichter and Eggebeen 1992). Families headed by women in rural settings are living in poverty, and this population has increased internationally by almost 50 percent in the last two decades of the twentieth century. This growing poverty has many implications for all rural families. These statistics, however, may have different implications culturally. For example, Brazilian children have a 20 percent better chance of living longer when the family income is in the hands of rural mothers rather than in the hands of fathers (Speth 1997).

In the case of African Americans and poverty, rural and urban differences are related to the increased frequency of mother-headed families in rural settings. According to Hayward Derrick Horton and Beverly Lundy Allen (1998), family status for African Americans continues to be one of the main influences in understanding poverty status. For these families, marital status affects the chances for living in poverty. However, being a mother-headed family was not a significant factor in relation to increased poverty rates in 1980. By 1990 the poverty rates for African-American mother-headed families had dramatically increased. In the United States since 1980, African Americans have constantly had a total family income that is approximately one-third that of white families. According to Horton and Allen, this trend of poverty has remained consistent whether the African-American families were rural (35%) or urban (27%) in 1990 and continues to be a problem for rural families and their children.

Among children, the rates for rural minorities remain three times higher than for rural whites in the United States. By 1997 over three million rural children were growing up in families with income below the poverty level. The overall poverty rate for all rural children is 22.4 percent, compared with rates for rural African-American and Hispanic children, which are two times that rate at over 46 percent. In addition, approximately 62 percent of poor rural children grow up in single-parent families. More than 50 percent of these rural families in poverty are headed by mothers or female caregivers (Poverty and Well-Being in Rural America 1999).

Those rural families who are not considered poor still face a profound economic struggle. Sociologists have documented the dynamics of the changes in rural life as farming has moved from family-owned small enterprise to the large complex industrial and corporate farming giants ( Jackson-Smith 1999). These marked changes in the economic organization of food production over the last fifty years have left farm families bewildered, depressed (both economically and emotionally), and frequently deprived of long-held family lands. More rural families have members working in nonagricultural jobs commuting further to solidify family income, or spending longer spans of time living away (either in urban industrial areas, offshore drilling sites, or remote foresting camps) in order to provide for their rurally based families. Yamu Karewa, an instructor in the Social Work Program at Bennett College in North Carolina, reports that in her native small rural Zimbabwean village, men frequently go to work in the cities to support their families. Texas and California are greatly affected by young male Mexican laborers who come to the United States for temporary work to support their families in rural villages in remote regions of Mexico.

This temporary absence of fathers has a profound effect on the families left behind in villages. Children grow up disconnected from their absent dads, and rural women are forced to assume roles previously held by male heads of households—disciplinarian, role model, family carpenter, decision maker. Eldest children frequently become begin to act as parents as well.

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about 4 years ago

This is very important and useful material specially for students and researchers of developing countries.I will be highly thankful,if you send such type of material to my address.The Department of Rural Sociology at Sindh Agriculture University. Sindh Pakistan is a newly established academic unit and it needs help from your reputed organization.

Thanks