Six Main Causes of Poverty in the World

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Source: Richmond Vale Academy

Poverty is a social condition that is characterized by the lack of resources necessary for basic survival or necessary to meet a certain minimum level of living standards expected for the place where one lives. The income level that determines poverty is different from place to place, so social scientists believe that it is best defined by conditions of existence, like lack of access to food, clothing, and shelter.

People in poverty typically experience persistent hunger or starvation, inadequate or absent education and health care, and are usually alienated from mainstream society.

Poverty is a consequence of the uneven distribution of material resources and wealth on a global scale and within nations. Sociologists see it as a social condition of societies with unequal and inequitable distribution of income and wealth, and the exploitative effects of global capitalism.

In the war against poverty it is crucial to understand the underlying causes of it; for only tackling the roots of the problem one can provide a final solution to it. This is especially useful to remember when considering that although poverty is a global issue, there is no blanket cause for it.

Therefore, there is no common solution. The causes of poverty vary from one country to the other and are ascribed to their history, governance and the dynamics of society within it. However; when taking into account each individual case, significant trends in the causes of poverty around the world become evident.

Here are the 6 main causes of poverty:

#1- Warfare

In times of war, a country’s productivity drops and so does its GDP. The political and social turmoil and overall instability discourages foreign and national business owners to invest in the country. In addition to this, access to basic services such as health, education and even drinking water is severed; thus robbing the locals of any semblance of quality of life. Délice Williams at The Borgen Project has this to say:

It is a telling sign that the poorest countries in the world have all experienced civil war and serious political upheaval at some point in the 20th century, and many of them have weak governments that cannot or do not protect people against violence.”

#2- Backward agriculture

In developed countries, the modernization of agriculture has allowed the creation of a smaller, more efficient agricultural sector; thus giving way for the economy to transition into an industrial and service one. This leads to both rural and urban workers getting better wages; since the latter will need to make more money to afford the higher food prices. In developing countries, however, the agricultural sector still makes up a big portion of the economy. Consequently, the price of agricultural goods is remains low to appeal to the people living in cities. This puts farmers below the poverty line and in time, can upend the stability of the country.

#3- Natural disasters

Underdeveloped and developing countries are systematically less prepared than developed ones to face the consequences of a natural disaster (e.g. hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts and floodings); therefore, they  take longer to recover from these events, often finding it impossible. Furthermore, the limited resources these countries possess prevent them from developing plans in the face of a crisis. Finally, the same lack of resources makes it impossible for them to repair the damages.

#4- Centralization of power and corruption

As a society develops and gets bigger, the need for more political representatives in all levels arises. Centralization comes when political leaders fail to delegate power at regional and local levels; thus having a small group of people often ruling over places they are not familiar with. This results in neglect of vital duties and corruption, when leaders take money meant to ameliorate the quality of life of their citizens and use it for personal matters.

#5- Discrimination and social inequality

According to the United Nations Social Policy and Development Division, “Inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty.” These inequalities stem from the belief that some people are worth less than others, based on their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This prejudice leads to a two-tier society where people facing discrimination do not possess the same opportunities the privileged have; as a consequence, the former often live below the poverty line.

#6- Environmental degradation

In developing countries, the poor majorly rely on natural resources for subsistence. Whether it be for agriculture as a source of income or to meet basic necessities (drinking water and shelter); the depletion of water sources and the contamination of the remaining, as well as deforestation, threaten the wellness of those who depend on them for survival.

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