If you're writing a research paper or essay, it can help to have some examples of social issues to inspire your work. It's also great to have some examples to illustrate the concept in the classroom or simply to satisfy your own curiosity. All of these issues are problems that affect many people in a society, rather than problems that affect only a few.
Common Examples of Social Issues
Poverty and Homelessness
Poverty and homelessness are worldwide problems. According to Habitat for Humanity, one-quarter of the world's population lives in conditions that harm their health and safety. Many do not have shelter, a basic human need for survival.
This social issue also goes beyond the 25% of the population directly affected. Because of the lack of shelter for this vulnerable population, there is greater stress on government and social programs, including schools and healthcare systems.
A warmer, changing climate is a threat to the entire world. Climate change affects the entire world population, and the Union of Concerned Scientists calls this social issue "one of the most devastating problems humanity has ever faced."
The 800 million people already living in extreme poverty will be impacted most severely. Around the world, people are already noticing warmer winters, more severe storms and rainfall events, and more frequent wildfires. These issues already put stress on governments and systems in many countries.
As the population of the world grows, resources become scarcer. The United Nations reports that the current population of 7.7 billion people is expected to grow in coming decades, with a projection of 8.5 billion people by 2030.
The fastest growing areas of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, often face already scarce resources like land for farming. As the population becomes more than the country can sustain, people will need to move elsewhere to avoid starvation and homelessness.
People move from one country to another, and in itself, this isn't a social problem. However, immigration can place stress on government programs and social systems within a country, and it can be a divisive topic in a society. These immigration-related stresses affect many people.
For instance, the Pew Research Center reports that the United States has more immigrants than any other country; 13.6% of the U.S. population identifies as an immigrant. This is a divisive issue in the U.S. population, with some groups calling for stricter immigration laws. Although the majority of U.S. citizens welcome immigrants, a 2019 Gallup poll indicates 23% of people think immigration is the most important social issue facing the country.
Civil Rights and Racial Discrimination
Civil rights, or the rights of citizens in a country to have equal treatment socially and politically, is another one of the most significant social issues in America and around the world. More than 40 years after the Civil Rights Act passed, almost 60% of African Americans still live in segregated neighborhoods and 90% of African Americans report that racial discrimination is still a major problem.
A report from the Pew Research Center Fact Tank indicates that about 50% of Americans feel the country needs to do more to address the income gap between men and women. Women still lag behind men in wages and top leadership positions held, although they are now more likely to attain a college degree.
Worldwide, the situation is even more extreme. UNICEF reports that 12 million girls are married before they reach adulthood, and 98 million high school-aged girls do not attend school.
Health Care Availability
When people are sick or hurt, they need access to medical care to get better. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one in 20 U.S. citizens do not obtain needed medical care because of the cost. Worldwide, 97 million people become impoverished by seeking needed medical care, as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO). Governments around the world are working on this problem, as are nonprofit organizations.
Some types of social problems are health-based, but they also have an impact on socio-economic issues. For instance, the CDC reports that 18.5% of U.S. children are considered obese, having a body mass index at or above the 95th percentile.
However, the childhood obesity epidemic doesn't affect all children equally. Children in families where the parents have more education and higher incomes are far less likely to be obese than those in families with less education and lower incomes.
Obesity can also have an impact on another important social issue: bullying. The PACER National Bullying Prevention Center indicates that obesity and other appearance issues are among the top reasons children report being bullied.
Despite recent anti-bullying initiatives, more than 20% of American students report being bullied. A third of those being bullied report that it happens at least once or twice each month. Additionally, 24% of middle school students report they have been victims of cyberbullying, or bullying conducted online.
Many of the social problems in society are connected in subtle ways, but all social problems are connected to the leadership of countries, corporations, and other groups. An ongoing Gallup poll asks Americans to rate the most important problems and social issues facing the country. By far, the most significant issue was poor leadership; 28% of respondents list it as the number one problem.
Fixing Common Social Issues
Although many Americans feel their leaders are the biggest problem they face, governments, corporations, and communities are working to fix some of the top social issues. These are just a few of the actions they are taking:
- Schools are implementing anti-bullying programs, which the PACER National Bullying Preventions Center says can decrease bullying by up to 25%.
- Community efforts to help reduce childhood obesity include adding salad bars to school lunches, focusing on physical fitness, and adding obesity prevention initiatives to hospitals.
- The U.S. enacted the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to begin addressing the challenges in health care availability, and it remains an important political issue.
The European Union is on track to meet its goals for reducing carbon emissions and helping mitigate the effects of climate change. Other countries are also working hard to make progress.
Raise Awareness Through Education
Discussing social issues can be contentious, but it's also an important part of making progress on these problems facing society. Community and classroom activities involving social issues can help raise awareness for these topics. Writing about social issues can also help expand people's understanding of these important challenges.