Perspectives on the Causes of Poverty

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8th Feb 2020 Society Reference this

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Introduction

 More than one billion people in the world today live in poverty. Poverty is the lack of resources and not enough income to live adequately by community standards (Allard). Many poor people are unable to afford shelter, clothing, medical care and food they need. They are a lot of costs for being poor. “Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time” (“What is Poverty”). Poverty can also result in malnutrition, health problems, suffering and life loss. Governments and organizations around the world have developed their own standards to measure poverty. Poverty standards can be absolute or relative (Allard). Absolute standards of poverty are based on the amount of income required to meet the basic needs of life. People who do not have enough money to meet their basic needs are considered poor. Relative poverty standards measure how people’s incomes, resources or lifestyles compare with those of others in the community (Allard). Poverty began in the sixteenth century and arose at the same time as wealth. “Gaps in income developed within and among nations, through combinations of geographical location, politics and access to resources and training” (Ksorian02).

 In the history of mankind, the whole world has been very poor. The standard of living in the past was low as compared to modern times. Around 1500 AD, quality of life began to improve from Renaissance, Italy. The Enlightenment led to industrialization and incomes started to increase rapidly. Many countries around the world began to prosper and thrive by 1960 (“The Visual History of World Poverty”). “Poverty has declined since the Industrial Revolution in developed countries. In East Asia, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, ninety five percent of global poverty has been concentrated since the mid-1990s (Chen). Many researchers suggest that the typical consequences of poverty are alcohol and substance abuse, less access to education, poor living conditions and increased levels of disease (Chen). Depending on the situation, poverty varies significantly. Living in poverty in Zimbabwe is different from feeling poor in Canada. Immigrants, aboriginal people, refugees, people with mental and physical disability and elderly individuals in Canada are at a greater risk of living in poverty (“Poverty” [Canada without Poverty]). Poverty has been linked to poor health, low educational or skill levels, incapacity or unwillingness to work, high rates of disruptive behavior, and improvement. While these characteristics have often been found to exist with poverty, their inclusion in a definition of poverty would tend to obscure the relation between them and the inability to provide for one’s basic needs (Britannica). Poverty is a temporary situation for approximately sixty per cent of the poor population in any year, but for the remaining forty per cent it is a constant problem that lasts for years (Ross and Clarence).

Perspective One: Poverty is a personal choice

 Poverty is the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions (“Poverty” [Merriam-Webster]). Poverty is a choice. The poor choose to stay poor and could lift themselves out of poverty by improving themselves (Anok). Poverty-stricken people make bad decisions to perpetuate poverty. If people choose to work hard, stay in school, get married and do not have children before they can afford them then they would not be poor (Assari). Government aid is holding a lot of people’s backs. Rather than giving people government support such as food aid and health care, they should encourage people to seek and keep jobs by helping them to stabilize their lives (Fessler). Those who waste their school years, make bad choices and take no responsibility for their lives, then life is going to be financially hard. If people want luxuries, then they have to be prepared to work for them (Haywood). Rich people make decisions that are financially rewarding whereas poor people make bad choices which causes them to live in poverty. “People are poor for many reasons. Some are mentally or physically challenged. Some don’t understand which choices society rewards financially. Some find work very uncomfortable. Others are seeking something more rewarding than money” (Harris).

 Many people are given opportunities to improve their lives, but they make bad decisions, accept their situation and choose to stay, which is their personal issue. “Poverty is a human relationship, in which humans decide who to value, and in whom to invest. Humans decide if the rich are going to get rich as poor get poorer” (Hauser). To move up the socio-economic ladder, one needs only motivation and positivity. Poor people are defined by some characteristics that make them “poor” from the rest of “us”. This might be their moral character (they are lazy, workshy); it might be their abilities (they cannot budget properly); or it might be that they have not been properly socialised (they have not learnt the value of hard work, etc.) (“Social Problems: Who makes them?”). Also, if poor people have a habit of spending more than they can afford and do not understand the importance of saving money this can be a problem and will cause them to always live in poverty. “The reason why poor people remain poor is not because of their lack of knowledge around what to do, but rather their ability to execute on what they know consistently and make money-making and saving, a habit rather than an action. Identifying that habit is the missing element is important as most people are in denial that habit is what drives change and not so much a simple action” (“The Reason Why Poor People Stay Poor”). People who look for more ways to make money for example, by having additional jobs need to stop and analyze how much money they are making and how they are spending it.

 The main cause of poverty is in the behaviour, morals and attitudes of the poor people. In today’s society there are many options for everyone. External conditions such as social and economic conditions do not force people to become poor. If people are poor, then the choices they make has something to do with that. Poor people are separated from “normal” people because of their flaws (“Social Problems: Who makes them?”). In 2016, LA Times conducted a survey to gain insight about the low-income individuals and families. They found out that “forty-six percent respondents above the poverty line said they believed the poor lacked basic skills. Only thirty one percent living below the poverty line believed that to be true” (Oslen). Poverty is shown to be the fault of the poor and one is portrayed to be more strong, capable, better and more deserving of food and shelter if they are not poor.  There have been various studies about how being poor can affect the brain negatively. Stress, malnutrition and exposure to the kinds of pollutants that often surround lower-income neighborhoods can have severe neurological effects on people living on the economic margins (Oslen).

 Furthermore, some people live in poverty because they have not learned about personal finance. When poor people are in financial difficulties, they feel helpless and this feeling can hurt them as they think they do not have the power or ability to do anything. “The No. 1 reason people end up poor or in some type of financial hardship is because of bad behavior. Success with money is only 20 percent head knowledge. A person’s actions have to change in order to win, and most aren’t willing to sacrifice and do that” (Kirkham). People who are rich put work into it as compared to poor people who think they are powerless and are not capable of doing anything. Poor people need to take responsibility for their own life and should improve their skills and capabilities so that they can find jobs that fit their needs. If people living in poverty are lazy or ignorant about their situation then it is their personal fault. They are considered as second-class citizens and are not given any importance because they made the decision of staying poor. A study carried out by the Brooking’s Institution identifies that bad choices are the primary cause of poverty (Sarlo). Individuals born with hereditary diseases or disabilities, people facing severe discrimination, and children raised by bad, abusive parents are all at higher risk of poverty. While many are affected by poverty, only a small percentage of people live in poverty over the longer term and this depends on both the choices and opportunities they make to move upward (Sarlo). There is no barrier between the rich and poor, everything is about how much effort and energy people want to put into their lives.

Perspective Two: Institutions perpetuate poverty

 “Institutional poverty is the source of income inequality and underdevelopment. Weak institutions provide room for the exploitation of public resources by politicians and government officials for their own interest. Corruption and ineffective governments lead poverty by increasing income inequalities” (Iqbal). As the economy is growing, poor people are working in an environment which is becoming more unequal. “Instead of focusing on the characteristics of the poor when assigning blame for poverty, we should examine the policy choices we have made that led to such an unequal economy” (Davis). Poverty stems primarily from economic and social inequalities and is mainly the result of factors such as low wages and discrimination which is beyond the control of individuals. “It is clear that despite misconceptions of poverty as individualized failures, the massive scale at which 1 in 7 Canadians experience financial insecurity signifies that poverty is a structural, systemic problem that requires structural and systemic solutions” (“Poverty” [Poverty | The Homeless Hub]). Poverty exists largely due to the structure of the society and people are in poverty because they find themselves in the holes of the economic system that provide them with insufficient income (Assari). Also, corruption has a negative impact on the poor and vulnerable such as increasing costs, reducing access to services like education, health and equality. “Empirical studies have shown that the poor pay the highest percentage of their income in bribes.  For example, the poor pay 12.6 percent of their income to bribes while high-income households pay 6.4 percent” (“Combating Corruption”). Poverty lies in the institutions rather than in lives of people.

 Poor governance, political instability and corruption are a major phenomenon that affects the world’s poverty today. “The instability of economic growth can make countries depend indefinitely on foreign aid. In countries where cultural or ethnic groups feel that there is economic, political and social inequality, wars are more likely to occur, causing a vicious cycle that leads to poverty” (Thelwell). The way governments operate can make a profound influence on poor people. Governments and institutions that are unable to prevent conflict and provide basic security or services can result in detrimental effects on their citizens, especially the poor. Haiti, for example shows how corruption and the misuse of public funds have reduced the quality for all of the country’s public services. This includes the fundamental areas of traditional governmental responsibility, such as the police and the justice system (Thelwell). Research demonstrates that government welfare policies provide cash assistance to only able-bodied adults over the last forty years. The perpetuate poverty and contribute to a variety of other socials ills. “Single-parent families, especially in those cases where the parent was never married, have among the highest incidence of poverty in Canada” (Sarlo). The welfare system which has been developed to help the poor people, but it is actually the facilitator of poverty. Sometimes, systems have no employment strategies for their clients, no qualifications and requirements, so they trap workers that have low confidence into a state of dependency and provide them with low income (Sarlo). Poor people that are illiterate do not speak up for themselves and this is why they remain poor.

 Investors benefit more by navigating the system than trying to design investments that create jobs and increase efficiency (Suchanek). People living in poverty have to stay unemployed as institutions are not making jobs. Also, around “800 million people spend at least ten percent of their income on health expenses for themselves or a family member pushing them further into poverty” (Thelwell). Many developing countries are in poverty due to the policies of international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). To guarantee debt repayment and economic reconstruction, Structural Adjustment Policies have been imposed. The way the policies were imposed required poor countries to cut spending on things like health, education, and development, while the priority should have been given to debt repayment and other economic policies (Shah). This means that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have called for poor nations to lower their people’s living standards. “The IMF and World Bank’s policies have indeed been heavily criticized for many years and are seen as unhelpful and sometimes, unaccountable, as they have led to an increased dependency by the developing countries upon the richer nations” (Shah). Women are experiencing a higher rate of poverty than men, and many households lead by single mothers are below the poverty line. “Patriarchal society has been the foundation of our nation and helps to explain the disproportionately high rate of poverty among women” (Kopp). Patriarchal society is a social system where men dominate women, and this leads to women not having adequate money to survive. Marginalized groups have to face certain social problems such as racism, sexism, and segregation which are constantly causing discrepancies in education, employment, and income. Such groups that have to experience societal barriers like these lead them to poverty (Assari). Poverty is a big problem in the world because of the way social structures are formed and function in a society.

Impact on Society

 Poverty is an issue that can have serious effects on children, health and communities. The vicious cycles of poverty are passed on from one generation to another. Illness, hunger and poor sanitation are the effects of poverty. Poor sanitation makes one prone to infections, hunger and lack of clean water make one more susceptible to disease (Borgen). Poverty is a major cause of social stress and threatens to separate a nation due to inequalities in income. “Even Western countries are gradually losing their middle class. As a result there has been an increased number of riots and clashes. For society, poverty is a very dangerous factor that can destabilize an entire country” (Borgen). Children living in poverty are more likely to have negative effects on their mental and physical health. Research demonstrates that poverty involves a greater risk of disease as well as premature death (“Impact of Poverty” [Child Poverty Action Group]). A study carried out by the Government Accountability Office stated that “conditions associated with poverty limit individuals’ ability to remain healthy and develop skills, in turn decreasing the potential to contribute talents, ideas, and even labor to the economy” (“Poverty Affects Everyone”). When poverty affects a large portion of the population, it applies to society as a whole and produces slower growth rates in the economy overall. People who live in poverty have to face a lot of problems in their lives. They have to live in unsafe neighborhoods where crime and violence are higher, experience racism and discrimination and have to live on a day-to-day basis with no savings in critical situations such as illness, job loss and debt (“Impacts of Poverty” [Employability In Scotland]).

 “Many studies focus on childhood poverty, and these studies make it very clear that childhood poverty has lifelong consequences. In general, poor children are more likely to be poor as adults, more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to become a teenaged parent, and more likely to have employment problems” (“The Consequences of Poverty”). Societies affected by poverty have high rates of violence and crimes. They are more likely to involve in criminal activities due to lack of education and other means of living. In societies where there is a widespread of poverty, there will be more sorrow and misery as they have no wealth which is directly linked to happiness. Money provides comfort which allows a person to live happily (“12 Effects of Poverty on Children & Society in Everyday Life”). Poverty can result in some serious consequences for example, millions of people that live in extreme poverty have a threat of dying due to starvation. “The United Nation estimates that twenty-five thousand people die of hunger everyday” (Taylor). Studies during economic recessions show that job loss and subsequent poverty are strongly linked with family violence, including abuse of children and the elderly. Poor families have a lot more stress than the middle-class families (“Causes and Effects of Poverty”).

It is necessary to tackle the stigma that surrounds poverty in order to increase self-confidence, feelings of value, dignity and understanding of the individual. This can give people the power to conquer their personal barriers to escape poverty. To increase awareness on the issue of poverty, a foundation called “We Raise” focuses on helping people gain insight on the topic of poverty and make them realize how grave its effects are. Some solutions to reduce poverty would be contributing money to foundations like “We Raise” so that the needy can be helped, volunteering or even pushing awareness so that issues like these are on the minds and hearts of people (Davis, B). In addition to this, there is an international day for the eradication of poverty that takes place every year on the seventeenth of October in the United States to fight against poverty and honour the victims of extreme violence, hunger and poverty (“Poverty, Development, Hunger, Health, Lack of, Homeless, Poor”). It is an issue that is not only supposed to be tackled by governments, but also individuals who should try their best to help reduce poverty and become more conscious about their roles in society. There is also a Ted Talk done by Rutger Bregman to raise awareness of the public on the issue. “The time for small thought and little nudges is past, it is now time to take serious action against poverty” (Bregman). Everyone in the society should work together to provide opportunities for other members that are living in poverty and help them attain their full potential. “Poverty is, at its core, a violation of the most fundamental human rights possessed by every person” (“Poverty” [Canada Without Poverty]).

It is important to spread awareness because many people do not know about the bad effects of poverty and the devastating results it has on countries and their economies. To make this world a better place, increasing awareness and donating a few dollars to campaigns can help leave a “positive footprint to stop poverty” (“Ways You Can Spread Awareness”). Poverty is a disgraceful and a horrific condition that has always haunted mankind. “Helping the poor escape from poverty will also help raise the incomes for the rest of the world” (Kotler). Recognizing institutions that sustain poverty as well as motivating poverty-stricken individuals is the most holistic way to address this issue (Kopp). In today’s society, poverty remains to be an issue that is yet to be resolved and a solution to be found. “Growing inequalities is detrimental to the economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increasing political and social tensions, and in some cases driving instability and conflicts” (“No Poverty: Why It Matters”). Every individual deserves a life filled with happiness, comfort, security, positivity and hope. “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice” (“Nelson Mandela Quote”). Poverty is a complex issue and requires a great amount of time. It is something that has to be solved with the help of everyone so that it can be completely eradicated. In reality, “the poor are no longer only a problem for the poor but a problem for all of us” (Kotler).

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