I grew up poor. That fact became quite obvious to me when I started attending gifted schools in the wealthier areas of town. While all of the other kids had the latest fashions and the newest Atari video game systems, I had to settle for the clothes and toys that my mother could afford.
My mother was intent on breaking this cycle of poverty by making sure that I took advantage of every educational opportunity available. She could always find extra money for me to go on a field trip, attend art classes, or participate in computer camp. Her sacrifices enabled me to earn a college degree and obtain a career that allows me to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough African American parents who realize the correlation between education and poverty.
The percentage of African Americans living in poverty increased from 2000 to 2006 by an average of 0.82% per year, after having declined by an average of 1.25% per year in the 1990s. In 2006, 24% of African Americans were in poverty compared to 8% of whites.
Poverty rates were highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they were black or Hispanic. In 2004, both black and Hispanic female-headed households had poverty rates just under 40 percent.
These high poverty rates are unacceptable and should not occur in a country as wealthy as the United States. It is imperative that parents teach their children to value education and to take advantage of every opportunity to learn. It is well documented that people with a college education earn more money over their lifetime than people who do not. Education is truly the key to ending the cycle of poverty.
If you want to know what you can do to prevent poverty, start by reading a book to your child. It’s never too early to instill a love of learning.