AmericanPoverty.org is a project of In Our Own Backyard, an organization of photojournalists commited to poverty alleviation in the United States

Photo Essays


Visit to a Labor Camp

Photographed by Steve Liss

Migrant farm workers, virtually unprotected by collective bargaining, minimum wage laws or social security, are among the hardest working yet most impoverished people in the United States. Housing and sanitation in migrant labor camps are often appalling. Health conditions for migrants are among the worst in the nation. These photographs, taken on a recent Sunday afternoon visit to such a labor camp near Dudley, North Carolina, are the first in a series documenting conditions for migrants and the ongoing efforts of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), a labor union leading the way in the struggle for economic, legal and human rights on their behalf.

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Children of the Gulf

Photographed by
Brenda Ann Kenneally

Images of abject suffering and deprivation on the Gulf Coast were laid bare by Hurricane Katrina – not just that caused by the hurricane's destructive path, but vivid portraits exposing the numbing poverty of tens of thousands of Mississippi and Louisiana families prior to the storm. In Mississippi alone nearly one third of all children were poor even before Hurricane Katrina. Most still are. All of this can be seen in the exceptionally sensitive pictures taken by photojournalist Brenda Ann Kenneally. Sadly, though these were all taken on the Gulf Coast, similar photographs could be shot virtually anywhere in the United States.

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Black in America

Photographed by Eli Reed

Poverty and racial injustice are deeply intertwined and continue to undermine our nation’s most basic promise of liberty and justice for all. Racism, both institutional and individual, is both a cause of poverty as well as an additional barrier for millions of people of color seeking to escape poverty. In nearly every key economic indicator, African Americans continue to fare far worse than the national average. According to U.S. Census figures, 24.5% of black families live below the poverty line, compared to 8.2% of white families. Poverty statistics are even worse for black children. One in three black children lives in poverty. Here is a selection of images drawn from perhaps the most intimate and poignant portrait of black life in America, photographed over two decades by legendary Magnum photographer Eli Reed.

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ChildrenofPovertyChildren of Poverty

Photographed by Stephen Shames

In the richest country the world has ever known more than 13 million American children – most of them from working families – live in poverty. During a remarkable career that has spanned four decades, award winning photojournalist Stephen Shames has championed the cause of America’s most vulnerable children and their families. His haunting photographs remind us that if we will only open our eyes to the world around us we can create a better and more secure life for the next generation of Americans.

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No Place For Children

Photographed by Steve Liss

Of the over 600,000 American children admitted to juvenile detention annually, poor and minority children are grossly over represented, with two-thirds of the detention population made up of kids of color. Money and social status often help determine a juvenile offender’s length of stay. Those who remain behind bars to shoulder the worst effects of the system are the ones whose families struggle financially, who have no transportation, whose court-appointed attorneys scramble to prepare their defense a few minutes before the judge strides into the room. Twenty-five year veteran Time Magazine photographer Steve Liss spent two years documenting conditions at the Webb County Juvenile Detention Facility in Laredo, Texas.

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