American Indian Poverty
By: Joe Miller
Right now over 1 in 4 American Indians are living in poverty. They are known as the poorest people in our country. Throughout recent history Native Americans of our country have faced many hardships that contribute to their poverty. Some of these hardships include: household income, unemployment, education and common stereotypes that Indians have to overcome.

Average Income for American Indians
American Indian income is significantly less than white income. According to the U.S. census bureau the average income for the average American Indian household was $37,815 in 2008. This compares to the average American household income of $50,288, the American Indian average was almost 25% less. This seems like a very significant amount of money, this difference shows how much more likely it is that American Indians are living in poverty than their white counterparts. The average is probably pulled up significantly by a few Indians that are very wealthy, like the ones who run casinos and make untold amounts of money. So many, many families have much less income than the $37,815 the census comes up with. Along with less income American Indians also have significantly more unemployment. The average of American Indian unemployment in 2007 was 7.8% and in during the recession in 2009 unemployment soared to 13.6%. Unemployment for whites during the same period went from 4.1% to 8.2%. American Indian unemployment before the recession was almost as high as whites was during the recession. In some reservations unemployment has been found to be as high as 68%. This combination of little income and high unemployment feeds the cycle of poverty. The adults have little hope in finding a good job, so they just quit trying to better themselves.

Children and Education
Many American Indian reservation schools have a very high dropout rate. Some schools in Western Alaska have nearly 100% male dropout rate. There are several reasons this happens. There is a mistrust of students towards their schools and it’s seen that attending school is turning your back on traditional culture. Especially when there are few American Indian teachers, so the students don’t relate to the teachers. When students don’t go to school, it often gives them more free time. This can potentially lead to more teen pregnancy and parents that didn’t graduate high school. These uneducated parents don’t feel the need for their kids to get an education, which means higher dropout rates. Less than 50% of American Indian and Alaska Native students from the Pacific and Northwestern regions of the United States graduate high school, The non-native graduation rates in the same region was about 72%. Lack of education and parents that are uneducated leads to the continuation of the cycles of poverty.

Common Stereotypes
There are many American Indian stereotypes that have a negative image for the Native people. One of these that contributes to poverty cycles is the image of the “Lazy Indian” the Indian who lives off of government welfare and never tries to work. This makes employers much less likely to hire Indians for any kind of work. There is also the stereotype that American Indians are alcoholics, which also makes employers less likely to hire. There is considerable data that alcohol affects American Indians. 5 of the top 10 deaths of American Indians are related to alcohol, including accidents, suicides and homicides. American Indians have little hope to break out of their poverty cycles and so they turn to the bottle to make themselves feel good. Parents drink and this makes it more likely the children will drink, further contributing to the cycles of poverty.

References:
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