Structural Factors Inhibiting Upward Economic Mobility Essay Example

The United States (US) has a long history of promoting and enhancing structural factors which prevent individuals from diverse backgrounds from rising the socioeconomic ladder. Socioeconomic mobility defines the concept of how individuals move from one social or economic class to another. This positional shift is influenced by job changes, tax alternations, crime and punishment, racially discriminatory practices, and neighborhood dynamics, including gentrification. One peculiar realization is the distinct way in which the limit to upward mobility is more pronounced among minority groups such as African Americans and other people of color (Schwarz, 2010). The existence of de-jure racial hierarchies which promote and sustain housing segregation and other space restriction norms also perpetually hinder access to resources, improving one’s socioeconomic status. This paper discusses the structural factors which keep most Americans in a perpetual cycle of poverty.


American poverty has most often been thought to stem from individual inadequacies; however, failings at the political and economic levels are mainly to blame. In the past, poverty was tied to poor personal decisions, laziness, failure to acquire useful skills and education, and their entrenched lack of motivation (Rank, 2011). In sharp contrast to this belief, the fundamental challenge lies in the limited access to viable economic opportunities for all Americans. Simultaneously, such individual shortcomings as insufficient education or skillset role in determining one’s competitiveness to securing decent chances do not justify the shortage of those opportunities. For instance, the United States continues to produce more low paying, part-time jobs without benefits to the vast pool of labor seeking high-income opportunities (Ali, 2014). In addition to their lack of health insurance and permanency, these jobs are not enough for the competing American workers; hence, most families cannot improve their socioeconomic welfare.

Income Inequality

Further, Americans’ limited upward mobility is attributable to the pervasive income inequality characterized by the wide gap between extreme prosperity and destitution. Findings continue to show the stark contrast between a CEO’s average income and that of a regular worker. Besides, wealth accumulation patterns are skewed, with the top one percent owning more than 42 percent of the nation’s entire financial property (Wilkinson, 2011). Despite these differences in wealth and wages, the social policies currently only cater to the needs of the affluent but are disguised as helping all Americans through trickle-down economics. Such factors as the type of occupation and what industry one works in determine wage differences. Most people providing unskilled labor only experience a significant increase in salaries by switching fields. Additionally, the economic sector within which one works, including manufacturing and logistics, influences their chance of improving their paychecks, which determines their upward mobility.


Millions of families throughout the United States face evictions yearly, a trend which hurts their capacity to improve their socioeconomic status. The affordable housing crisis mainly affects low-income households who devote a large part of their earnings to housing costs. Unlike in the 1980s, when housing was the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s top plan, it has been sidelined in recent decades (Rice, 2015). Consequently, the housing dynamics have deeply created and deepened poverty in the US. The extreme rent burden implies a shrinkage of money available for food, medication, school supplies, and other necessities. Moreover, the affordable housing shortage in urban areas causes residential instability among low-income families, hindering their capacity to invest in their homes and community emotionally. The burdensome nature of evictions on impoverished families obstructs their path to socioeconomic prosperity.


Health also plays a vital role in one’s economic status, influencing both intragenerational and intergenerational mobility. There are numerous ways through which wellbeing could affect wealth and earnings. The presence of illness can directly hinder labor market attachment or limit job choice. Additionally, the disease can indirectly impact one’s economic status primarily if it occurs in childhood and alters cognition and learning, as seen among persons living with disabilities. Health shocks affect intragenerational mobility by restricting one from work besides the typically exorbitant medical expenses, which depletes one’s savings (Fernholz, 2014). Therefore, health remains a critical determinant of upward economic mobility by influencing one’s access to jobs and their capacity to perform the required tasks.

Financial Systems

Additionally, monetary systems prolong inequality and deepen the financial insecurity of people of diverse backgrounds, limiting the chance to improve their lives economically. Access to home mortgages, bank accounts, business loans, and reliable banking advice is necessary to build lasting financial security. Nonetheless, most Americans do not hold a bank account and instead use costly alternative monetary services, including check cashing outlets. Moreover, most families rely on such high-priced lending products as payday loans, subprime mortgages, and auto title credits (Massey & Denton, 1993). The majority of individuals who resort to these unfair financial practices because of their low credit scores plus poor credit history cannot afford them conventional credit. The low incomes without emergency savings compel individuals to turn to predatory lenders for financial cover. These banking norms and practices keep impoverished persons in a loop of perpetual reliance on loans, thus inhibiting their upward mobility.

Justice System

The American justice system is also responsible for socioeconomically stagnating low-income communities. The criminal justice practice and policy have intensified the disparate incarceration of persons of color, especially Black cisgender men (Massey & Denton, 1993). Consequently, several working-age men are excluded from the labor force. Besides, being ex-offenders exposes them to countless employment barriers, further inhibiting their ability to establish stable, prosperous lives. Moreover, local governments increasingly use fines and fees to raise revenue. In most cases, these norms are unequally imposed on people of color (Massey & Denton, 1993). As such, minor offenders escalate into overwhelming burdens of jail, insurmountable debt, and deprivation.

Education Disparities

Disparities in education are another common hindrance to financial security, which can propel one into a higher socioeconomic level. High-quality education cutting across from early childhood to college is a known foundation for well-compensating career and financial success. Nevertheless, critical gaps along the learning continuum inhibit some Americans’ ability, especially, lower income students, mostly those of color, to attain financial security in adulthood (Massey & Denton, 1993). The students from poor backgrounds are less likely to attend highly performing preschools increasing their chances of starting late and performing poorly at school. Moreover, the persistent residential segregation limits their choice of schools since most high-quality schools only exist in predominantly white, middle-class neighborhoods (Ali, 2015). The poor academic preparation affects the individuals’ future job prospects and thus lasting financial security, enabling one upward economic mobility.


The issue of color in the United States is an essential structural factor which influences economic mobility upward. There are racially discriminatory practices which keep colored populations marginalized, with limited access to significant economic opportunities. The race gaps in upward mobility persist throughout the earnings distribution. Most of these differences in movements and economic levels result from a conglomeration of such interrelated factors as poverty, poor education, housing segregation, and other racially biasing norms. Limited access to quality education as defined by residential area dims future financial prospects of mostly Black and Latinx individuals (Taylor, 2015). As a result, many people resort to illegal activities such as trade-in hard drugs to earn a living. In this area, they clash with the criminal justice system, which is further bent towards unequally targeting colored individuals, committing to excessive debts through fines and jail. Consequently, their chances of improving their socioeconomic status become significantly dismal.


Similarly, the United States’ neighborhood dynamics such as gentrification, redlining, and ghettoization are important structural determinants of upward mobility. Gentrification generally describes the situation in which mostly well off, educated, whites move into region inhabited by low-income, mainly Black population, causing rise in property values, subsequently driving out the poor natives (Kiviat, 2008). However, gentrification has been found to be more complicated than just pushing impoverished natives out of their homes. In real sense, the white yuppies gentrifying into an area cause social integration despite the pervasive segregation which characterize American cities. However, gentrification still remains a harmful practice for those whose incomes have not recorded significant increase to match the gentrifiers’ earnings. Such individuals will have difficulties rising the socioeconomic ladder.


Ghettoization is another neighborhood dynamic which impacts one’s upward mobility. Before the Civil War, most American cities had both Blacks and whites living together, despite their distinct social hierarchies. At the advent of the 20th century, two developments lead to the rapid effacement of interracial contact: America’s industrialization and Black’s concomitant movement from farms into cities. The wave of communal violence which broke out in the Northern cities between 1900 to 1920 created the initial impetus for the formation of downtowns (Massey & Denton, 1993). This ghettoization shows the myriad ways in which such social life aspects as schools, government districts, and other institutions are organized by geography. For instance, because residential neighborhoods typically contain and partially fund public schools, the quality of educational opportunities ties to their place of residence. Moreover, those living in the segregated ghettoes wield less political influence than their more economically diverse white counterparts. Additionally, ghettoization denies the downtown dwellers a chance for steady employment and quality public amenities.


Lastly, the practice of redlining, which was widespread in the mid-20th century, is a neighborhood dynamic which perpetually kept Black people out of significant economic opportunities. Redlining describes how regions with substantial Black populations were outlined in red ink on maps to warn mortgage lenders. Thus, Blacks were effectively isolated in areas which experience lower levels of investment compared to their white counterparts. In addition to the racially restrictive housing statutes, which prevented Blacks from buying homes in predominantly white areas, redlining barred generations of households from gaining equity in homeownership (Massey & Denton, 1993). The lost chances at residential housing possession, which resulted from these unjust practices, prevented these families from wealth accumulation, an opportunity which would have enabled their rise through the socioeconomic ladder.


To conclude, numerous structural factors can inhibit one’s upward social mobility. They include such neighborhood dynamics as ghettoization, gentrification, redlining, education disparities, health status, evictions, and pervasive poverty. These factors have the effect of inhibiting one’s upward movement across the socioeconomic spectrum by perpetually keeping them in an endless loop of need and endless inability to maneuver substantial progress. The issue of race proves the most pivotal structural determinant of upward mobility as most other factors revolve around it. As such the United states’ marginalized groups, including Black and Latinx populations are the ones whose upward economic mobility is most inhibited.


Ali, S. (2014). I gentrify bed-stuy. American Sociological Association, 13(1), 84.

Ali, S. (2015). Fast gentrifying neighborhoods, slow gentrifying schools. Infinite Mile Detroit.

Fernholz, T. (2014). Gentrification isn’t bad for the poor. Quartz.

Kiviat, B. (2008). Gentrification: Not ousting the poor? TIME.

Massey, D., & Denton, N. A. (1993). American apartheid: Segregation and the making of the underclass. Harvard University Press.

Rank, M. R. (2011). Rethinking American poverty. Contexts, 10(2), 16-21.

Rice, A. (2015). The red hot rubble of East New Yolk. New Yolk Magazine.

Schwarz, B. (2010). Gentrifications and its discontents, Manhattan never was what we think it was. The Atlantic.

Taylor, K. (2015). Race and class collide in a plan for two Brooklyn Schools. The New York Times.

Wilkinson, R. (2011). How economic inequality harms societies [Video]. TED.

Identity Misconceptions In “Buffalo Wallow Woman” And “Nature Poem”


Anna Lee Walters wrote “Buffalo Wallow Woman” to show that it is easier to label a woman representing traditional cultures as insane rather than try to understand her. This woman is trapped in a mental ward because she is different from the doctors and nurses, but the only thing she wants is to escape. Tommy Pico presents a slightly different issue with the way Native Americans are viewed in “Nature Poem.” As a Native American, he is expected to cherish nature and write about it. Instead, he prefers to write poems about what inspires him, for example, city life. A common theme in “Buffalo Wallow Woman” by Lee Walters and “Nature Poem” by Pico is misconceiving the identity of people from traditional cultures.

Buffalo Wallow Woman

In “Buffalo Wallow Woman,” Lee Walters tells a story of an elderly woman who is locked in a mental ward. There is an apparent inconsistency in the way this woman views herself and the way the society, which is represented by the hospital staff, sees her. In the beginning, this woman shares her plans to leave the hospital because she does not like this place. She sees and hears wild animals and looks for her clothes (Lee Walters 104). As this is a mental ward, the medical personnel does care for what this woman is saying. For instance, when she shares her intentions to leave, one nurse replies, “Mrs. Smith, you don’t want to hurt our feelings, do you?” (Lee Walters 104). In spite doctor declaring that the woman has a bad heart and no one to care for her, which is why she has to stay at the hospital, he fails to recognize that she is not insane and behaves in a normal way for indigenous culture.

The woman’s name reflects the difference in the way she perceives her identity and the way others see her. The woman refers to herself as the “Buffalo Wallow Woman,” while the hospital staff calls her “Mrs. Smith” (Lee Walters 104). Lee Walters contrasts a common surname with the name of a Native American. Although “Buffalo Wallow Woman” describes a person trapped in a mental ward, the story shows the inconsistencies in how the Anglo society views the indigenous people. A good symbol representing these differences is the woman’s moccasins, which are old and in patches, yet they take her to the places where she wants to be (104). She cannot find these shoes as she searches her ward and the floor, which shows that this symbol of her identity does not belong in the hospital, it is not welcomed there.

One can see the differences between the two cultures even in the way the Buffalo Wallow Woman speaks. She greats people by asking, “do you come with prayers?” (Lee Walters 106). Although this may appear strange to the doctors, she merely acknowledges their presence with these words, and they fail to recognize this by thinking that this greeting is a part of her illness. Another example is this woman talking about people’s souls rather than their physical presence. For instance, she meets a man in a hall, and they “stare into each other’s souls” (Lee Walters 107). Hence, the language that Lee Walters uses is another element showing the issue with the way traditional cultures are perceived.

In this story by Ann Lee Walters, the woman of traditional culture is viewed as mentally ill because of her desire to reunite with nature and her appreciation for it, which others do not understand. If one were to abandon the thinking patterns and try to understand this woman, they would see that she is not insane. What makes her look insane are the parts of Native American culture, which the doctors and nurses do not understand. Due to this, the Buffalo Woman feels as if she is a ghost, which symbolizes her being present but unnoticed by others. The main idea of this work is reflected in the woman’s words: “I am the one suspended here, but he acts trapped too” (Lee Walters 106). Unlike the word that this woman describes, the doctor is a strange creature for her, who makes her feel unsettled. The only person who recognizes the woman’s struggles and wants to hear her instead of dismissing her is Tina. Notably, Tina and the Buffalo Wallow Woman share culture, which is why Tina can recognize the things that the woman talks about instead of labeling the latter as insane.

Nature Poem

Tony Pico’s “Nature Poem” is a story about stereotypes and perceptions of traditional cultures that people use to misjudged others. Unlike the story by Ann Lee Walters, “Nature Poem” was published relatively recently, in 2017. Similarly, “Nature Poem” shows the issue of identity and stereotypes that are used in this society to judge people from traditional cultures. Pico writes about being tired of the association between the Native American culture and nature, and he does not want to write about it. When viewing this work in contrast to Ann Water’s short story, one can see the evolution of the traditional culture and the misconceptions about it. Pico is a modern individual, but because he is Native American, he is expected to write about nature, although he prefers the city. He writes: “Ugh, I swore to myself that I would never write a nature poem” (Pico 1). Thus, Pico recognizes society’s expectations linked to his descent and wants to show the flaws of labeling people’s identity based on their descent.

The writer confesses that he cannot write about nature, and this should not be an issue because Pico should be free to choose a theme and inspiration for his work. Pico states, “I can’t write a nature poem,” and “I wd slap a tree across the face” (2). Then, he proceeds to describe a scenario with a man Pico meets at a bar, which is the type of nature the author wants to write about. Hence, there is a clear parallel between what is expected from a Native Indian author—being close to nature and writing about it, and what Pico truly is inspired to write about. Although he is a Native Indian, his identity goes beyond that label. With this poem, he declares that a writer, or any other person, should not be bound to one thing that society recognizes as a symbol of this community.

Nature represents Pico’s identity since he is expected to write about forests and beaches. Yet, he is fascinated by cities and people and chooses to write poems about things that are a part of his identity. Moreover, Pico uses slang in his writing, making language an essential element that supports the theme of his work. For example, Pico writes, “bc,” “ppl,” and “NDN” instead of “because,” “people,” and “Native American” (2). This choice of words supports the theme of Pico being a modern individual with his distinct character and preferences that should not be constrained by his Native American heritage.

Common Theme in “Buffalo Wallow Woman” and “Nature Poem”

The failure to recognize the traditional culture’s differences when compared to the culture accepted by a broader society causes suffering to the representatives of these communities. The woman in Ann Lee Walter’s story does not want to be trapped in a mental ward. Her identity is lost and unrecognized by the hospital staff. Similarly, Pico does not want to be constrained by an image of a Native American author.


In summary, the “Buffalo Wallow Woman” depicts the misconceptions and failure to recognize the difference between the Ango and traditional cultures. The woman is trapped in a mental ward because she behaves in a normal way for the Native American culture. This is shown through the symbols, such as her shoes or her referring to herself as a ghost, and the use of language, such as how this woman greets others and talks about their souls. Pico’s “Nature Poem,” published years after “Buffalo Wallow Woman,” shows how misconceptions and stereotypes do not allow Native American people to explore and establish their identities. They are labeled as individuals who love nature and are connected to it deeply, although they may have different interests and desires.

Works Cited

Lee Walters, Anna. Buffalo Wallow Woman. Firebrand Books, 1992.

Pico, Tommy. Nature Poem. Tin House, 2017.

Impact Of COVID-19 On Depression And Suicide Rates Among Adolescents And Young People

It is hard to disagree that all parents and many other adults are trying to protect children and teenagers and make sure that nothing may hurt their lives. However, an extended number of external factors cannot be eliminated, and their influence on adolescents and their mental health is hard to overestimate. The coronavirus pandemic that began in March 2020 has had a tremendous impact on all people in the world, and children are no exception. According to Dastagir, depression rates among adolescents have significantly increased since the beginning of the quarantine (“The Pandemic Is Taking a Toll”).

Even before COVID-19, the statistics were appalling, and these numbers prove the seriousness of the problem threatening the lives of children and young people. In 2017, approximately 16.9% of American adolescents were diagnosed with clinical depression, and about six thousand teenagers committed suicide (“Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health”). The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence of coronavirus on these tragic numbers.

Isolation measures make it rather challenging for teenagers to remain positive. Generally, young people need to communicate, socialize, and get support and care from their friends and other people in order to maintain their mental health. However, because of COVID-19, adolescents were made to stay at their homes for months, be isolated from their friends and sometimes even families, and forget about visiting social places where they could rest from studying or other problems.

Moreover, the ongoing uncertainty, grief, fear, and stress created by the coronavirus pandemic and measures made teenagers have an extremely tough time and reduced their unstable abilities to cope emotionally. Unfortunately, not all adolescents can call their home a safe place, and forced and prolonged confinement causes depression and suicidal thoughts (Kamenetz). According to Marques de Miranda et al., approximately 48% of male and female teenagers were diagnosed with depression in 2020. Since the year is not over yet, this number is likely to increase. Therefore, this period is definitely a tough and scary time for representatives of the younger generation.

COVID-19 has created a great opportunity for various researches related to people’s emotional states. Recently, there was a study conducted in order to find out whether young people notice any severe changes in their mental health (Dastagir, “The Pandemic Is Taking a Toll”). According to the researcher, “75% of respondents 18-24 reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom, and serious suicidal ideation among this group was 25%” (Dastagir, “The Pandemic Is Taking a Toll,” para. 16). Because of significant changes in all spheres of life, including work, studies, extra social activities, and other areas, adolescents have difficulty imagining their future. Many teenagers have no energy to remain positive and cannot believe that they will be able to go to real school or college and then find a job since now their parents lose theirs.

To draw a conclusion, one may say that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the rates of depression and suicidal behavior among teenagers, and this effect is likely to continue for an extended period of time. Though there are only a few articles and researches related to the statistics for 2020, it is already possible to suggest that the rates of attempted suicides and diagnosed depression disorders are more twice as high as they were in 2019 (Dastagir, “More Young People Are Dying by Suicide”). Therefore, now it is more important than ever to take care of teenagers and young people and make sure they are successfully going through this challenging time.

Works Cited

Dastagir, Alia E. “More Young People Are Dying by Suicide, And Experts Aren’t Sure Why.” USA Today, 2020.

—. “The Pandemic Is Taking a Toll on Americans’ Mental Health. A New CDC Study Shows Who We Need to Worry about Most.” USA Today, 2020.

Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health.” Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, 2020.

Kamenetz, Anya. “The Pandemic has Researchers Worried About Teen Suicide.” NPR, 2020.

Marques de Miranda, Debora, et al. “How Is COVID-19 Pandemic Impacting Mental Health of Children and Adolescents?” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, vol. 51, 2020.