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Poverty: Definition, Causes, Types and Effects


Poverty is a global issue. It is characterized by limitations in accessing human basic needs such as food, healthcare, education, shelter, and clean water among other essential needs.

This paper defines what poverty is. It explains in detail; relative and absolute poverty as the two main types of poverty in our societies. Besides, the paper explores the reasons causing poverty in society such as overpopulation, inadequate employment, and environmental degradation among other important causes. Thus, the paper points out the effects that are linked to poverty such as homelessness, hunger, and sexual exploitation. Further, the paper also expounds on significant poverty mitigation measures such as fixing strong institutions, education, skill-building, economic liberalization, and empowering women among other reasons that should be established to reduce poverty.

In conclusion, poverty creates hunger and hopelessness among populations.

Policies to empower the societies, economic structures such as elaborate healthcare, affordable education, and provision of safe food should be established and strengthened to help in reducing the intense poverty in the societies.


Poverty means a lack of minimum basic needs necessary to preserve life.i.e. food, clothing, healthcare, basic education, and shelter. The poor in this case are people who lack an opportunity to lead a comfortable or decent living standard because of a compromised financial position in society (Tanner 1996). Poor people have low income compared to the ‘nation’s median income’. A nation’s median income is the average income of an individual in a country.

Types of Poverty

Society is made up of different types of poverty based on the personal definition. There exist two types of poverty that are relative poverty and absolute poverty (Tanner 1996). The measure of relative poverty is comparable to measuring social inequality in society.

Relative poverty is earmarked as a measure centered on a poor standard of living and low income about the repose of the society. Relative poverty does not essentially infer to somatic human supplies such as health, shelter, and nutrition. But it favors incapability to access goods and services that are probable by present-day society (Cheal 1999).

Absolute poverty is a comparative term that defines a condition within a segment of the populace when equal to the mainstream. Constitutes of absolute poverty differ from one generation to the other as a state of slight survival changes. Absolute poverty affects people who do not have enough resources to aid their basic needs (Cheal 1999). The basic needs include accessing water, education, food, shelter, and health care. Failure to receive these essential basic needs results in high infant mortality and less life expectancy, low literacy rate and contributes to hardships in finding work. People affected by absolute poverty tend to suffer from chronic diseases and parasites that would have been easily been contained. That due to abject poverty, it proves hard to access affordable health care (Cheal 1999).

Causes of poverty

Various reasons have been charged to a wider spread of poverty across the world. one of the important causes of poverty is overpopulation. Overpopulation is a situation where a larger number of people exist than the resources and space available to support them (Lister 2004). High population growth creates high pressure on the available resources leading to scarcity. The surging population exerts pressure on available resources. An only a limited percentage of people can be supported on a given piece of land. Besides, the numbers rely on the quantity of food and other resources the land can give. In countries where the livelihood of the population is farming, herding, or gardening; a huge tract of land can only support a limited number of people because the latter activities are labor-intensive and only produce less amount of food (Lister 2004).

Besides, the level of poverty can depend hugely on combining population density and agricultural output. Consequently, a high birthrate also contributes to increasing poverty. Children are believed to assets to the poor population this is because they provide the needed labor, especially in farming activities. Besides, traditional values in most societies sanction the significance of having large families. In developing countries, for instance, the government does little in providing less or no financial support in strengthening family planning (Gladstone 1996). People who wish to limit their families face difficulties in achieving their objectives, therefore, most developing countries have a higher rate of population growth a situation contributing to poverty.

The second cause of poverty is associated with inadequate employment and education opportunities. Lack of sound education and rampant illiteracy in society increase the level of poverty in the society (Gladstone 1996). Most governments particularly in developing countries do not have the capacity and resources to provide good education to their population. Without a good education, most people are limited in finding good job prospects that can sustain their livelihood. Unprivileged people forego education to search for alternative means of improving their livelihood.

Further, lack of employment opportunities and especially for women can need foregoing to school, therefore, contributing to poverty. Consequently, when people do not have work, they have money. Hence mass unemployment creates a high level of poverty in society (Kelso 1994). Employment opportunities sometimes change providing a long period of joblessness. In densely populated countries, it is sure the working-age group cannot access employment and earn satisfactory income. Alternatively, other people may not be eligible to find work or may earn fewer wages to support themselves and their dependents (Kelso 1994).

The third, causes of poverty are environmental degradation. Environmental degradation has contributed to the depreciation of the natural environment for example; water bodies, atmosphere, forests, and soil causing poverty. Environmental challenges have contributed to the scarcity of food, shelter, water, and other vital resources. Degradation of land, water, and air pollution, and deforestation affect people who benefit directly from these resources (Ellwood 2010).

A higher percentage of the population in developed nations can easily access high-quality social amenities, high levels of technology, and food security. Developed nations use high levels of technology to mitigate environmental degradation, protecting their population from health hazards resulting from the environmental population. In addition, environmental degradation brings more challenges such as; intensive farming causes loss of soil fertility, pollution (Ellwood 2010). Deforestation reduces food and other worthwhile resources linked to it. Forests tend to absorb pollution and act as the catchment of water. Without forests, there is a risk of increased pollution and flooding that decreases productivity.

Fourthly, the economic and democratic trends extend the causes of poverty in society. Economic trend influences how the population adapts to its immediate environment. Inflation tends to increase the cost of living because people lose their jobs and hence have no stable source of income (Ellwood 2010).

Period of inflation causes recession and affect mostly the younger and less educated members of the society, who face difficulties in getting jobs that provide good earning to support themselves. Besides, changes in labor markets have surged the level of poverty (Chafel 1993). For example, the high-paying opportunities in manufacturing industries have decreased, whereas opportunities in the service and technology-linked businesses have surged. Based on job trends, people have gained skills that are needed in performing manual jobs such as; those available in manufacturing industries either through vocational or apprentice programs (Chafel 1993).

But these jobs are being faced out by technology and service-related jobs that need a college education, people who do not have a college education experience a challenge in getting good-paying work. Thus, the disparity in the spread of resources also accounts for a high level of poverty in society (Eisdell 1992). People placed at the middle or bottom of the income distribution have been affected because the cost of living is high. After all, the resource distribution in their geographical area cannot aid them. However, the demographic shift has worsened the situation of poverty. The demographic shift has upsurged the poverty rate among children. For instance, in the US, the family structure has been altered significantly. This has led to the rise of the single-parent family hood which is poorer (Eisdell 1992). Single families with children experience challenges in evading poverty compared with two-parent families. Two parents families can share the costs of childcare and work responsibilities.

Lastly, welfare dependency and individual responsibility have also been linked to the causes of poverty in society (Adams 1991). Differing myths persist about individual responsibility and poverty in society. Some people certify that poverty is an indication of societal makeup and that a proportion of any given society is predictable will poor. Dysfunctional “social institutions such as schools and labor markets” are also responsible for increasing poverty levels in societies. So the social reasons that poverty is uncontrollable by those who face it, but could be avoided if sound strategies and plans are instituted (Adams 1991).

Moreover, society believes the poor themselves intentionally carry themselves in choices that perpetuate their poverty. For example, if people have deliberate alternatives to use drugs and direct them to poverty, it can reason that they can blame themselves for their condition. But this reasoning cannot prove itself the association between poverty and drugs. In addition, cycles of poverty have been influenced by welfare programs. Government initiative to create welfare organizations to help the poor strengthen sustaining poverty in the society (Luthar 1999).

A welfare program gives incentives to people by encouraging them to remain poor while receiving payments and other important support. Welfare organization, therefore, discourages marriage and work (Luthar 1999). For example, cash welfare programs in the US inspire individual decisions hence creating poverty.

Effects of Poverty

Poverty gives rise to undesirable effects in society. One of the effects associated with poverty is homelessness. Individuals without enough incomes and social maintenance to satisfy their basic needs may be a locked-in systems where they don’t have a fixed place to call home (Evans 2000). There are also concerns of an increasing “gap between the rich and the poor especially in developed economies.” Because the latter earns less in many societies, they are compelled to make impossible options between; medical care, food, transport, and clothing. Because of their choices, many working families regularly find themselves turning to the streets for shelter. Consequently, social upkeep for the poor has decreased in the society, also in countries where social reforms were being embraced, it has contributed to an increase in the population at the possibility of homelessness (Evans 2000).

Secondly, poverty results in hunger. Hunger is designated as a lack of accessibility to adequate food because of poverty or controlled resources. This always leads to food insecure which refers to the inability to access basic needs because of financial limits. Hunger persists in society because individuals have no access to food or are constrained to buy existing food (Geyndt 1996). Besides, other notable reasons associated with hunger include ignorance, war, diseases, and unbalanced trade configurations.

Thirdly, poverty leads to health decline. Significance reasons ascribed to poverty for example malnutrition makes the population susceptible to illnesses. In poor countries, good and reliable health care is a preserve of the rich (Geyndt 1996). The poor population, therefore, lacks accessibility to suitable treatment and care. Because of this phenomenon, in poorer nations, life prospect is considerably lower than in developed nations. HIV/AIDs and TB are regarded as diseases linked to poverty. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa, HIV/AIDS is directly associated with a higher death rate. The higher this death rate could be lessened if suitable strategies on how to access treatment for unscrupulous infections in cases of TB and antiretroviral drugs (Geyndt 1996). Besides, if pregnant women have suitable prenatal and postnatal attention, the dangers associated with HIV transmission to their child are decreased.

Where Population experiences extreme poverty for example in high HIV prevalence areas, societal and family networks weaken and break (Harrison 2007). This makes collective actions challenging because people feel that they do have control of their lives because of isolation, marginalization, and lack of strength in taking part in decision-making and policies which influence their lives.

Lastly, poverty contributes to sexual exploitation among children. Sex exploitation involves sexual abuse by an adult and reward by either cash or in-kind to the minor, or a third-party (Harrison 2007). The Child is preserved as a commercial object. Commercial sexual exploitation among children contributes to a form of oppression and ferocity against children; it is also quantified as forced labor and present-day slavery. Because of poverty, children are sexually exploited in three different ways; being forced into prostitution, pornography, trafficking for sexual reasons, and other forms such as sex tourism and early marriages (Harrison 2007).

Mitigating Poverty in Societies

Poverty can be contained when appropriate strategies are adopted. one of the ways to mitigate poverty in society is having strong institutions. An efficient institution that obeys laws and is not corrupt makes and implements good laws that offer confidence to businesses and property is essential in mitigating poverty (Katz 1976). A government that is fair and efficient will strive to work hard to create a long-term investment of the country rather than despoliation of available resources by corruption.

Secondly, the role of education and skill-building for economic growth is a significant approach in poverty alleviation (Katz 1976). Collective public education plays a central role in molding the youth with elementary academic and trade skills. Learning by apprenticeship also provides the needed trade skills. Besides, education geared towards women’s improvements will allow small family size; which is important in poverty decline. Consequently, education about skills needed to develop and uphold the infrastructures of a poor society such as plumbing, trade, electrician, and other mechanical skills are desired to help the society stray away from poverty (Katz 1976).

Thirdly, poverty can be reduced by empowering society to embrace Microloan programs and education. A microloan program is believed to be one of the practical tools geared towards poverty fall in society. A microloan is an idea whereby individuals such as farmers or groups of people are given loaned small sums of money to enable them to get things needed to surge their economic progress. Besides, by incorporating micro-enterprise development; a technique encompasses education to the population on how to handle basic financial ethics and broad business training before loan provision provides a practical approach to mitigating poverty in the society (Katz 1976).

Fourthly, strategic economic liberalization helps in lessening the effects of the poverty scourge in society. Prolonging property privileges to safeguard the poor contribute to poverty mitigation that a country could embrace. Safeguarding property privileges to land, which is an essential asset for most societies, is fundamental to their economic growth and freedom. Ferrante (2008) points out that increasing lands privileges is vital in decreasing poverty.

Fifthly, embracing aids provide an opportunity for mitigating poverty in society. Aid is labeled as a basic income award. It is a form of social security that occasionally offers citizens money. Aid can be spread based on various ways and meeting certain needs. For example, conditional cash transfers are widely attributed as a successful anti-poverty is grounded on actions, for example, registering children in schools or receiving vaccinations (Ferrante 2008). Consequently, welfare states provide an alternative to poverty decrease.

States that provide economic opportunities, security, independence in a complete manner ensure that poverty is minimized therefore creating an equal society. Besides, debt relief contributes to burdening of poor countries hence assisting in mitigating poverty (Ferrante 2008). Most developing countries have experienced huge debts from governments of rich nations and major international money lending institutions. Noting the interest rate is much higher than a country can produce per year in profits, freezing these debts allows the poor nation to reduce the level of poverty, by listing policies that will reduce poverty such as the provision of basic health care and affordable education.

Lastly, women offer an important role in strengthening household survival. Strengthening the participation of women in the development of the economy as well as the youths have particularly been seen as an important approach to achieve high levels of economic growth. This will highlight the dynamics of poverty separately from income inequalities. With better privileges, opportunities, and environment, women tend to receive more education hence increasing the human capital of a country. When the favorable condition is established, women act responsibly in aiding the people in the family (Ferrante 2008). Besides, when women have better education, they control their lives and successfully bring down population growth because they influence family planning.


Poverty contributes to the weakening of leads to homelessness, hunger, illnesses, and sexual exploitation among other undesirable effects in society. A society that experiences a high level of poverty cannot contribute to the society or a country’s economic growth. Hence fitting strategies such as efficient healthcare, quality, and affordable education, strong governmental institutions and affordable quality food framework is essential in reducing poverty and enhancing an economically stable society. This will increase life expectancy and improved lifestyle for the population.

Reference List

Adams, Richard H.1991. The Effects of International Remittances on Poverty, Inequality, and Development in Rural Egypt. Washington D.C: Intl Food Policy Res Inst.

Chafel, Judith A. 1993. Child Poverty and Public Policy. Washington DC: The Urban Insitute.

Cheal, David. 1999. New Poverty: Families in Postmodern Society. Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Eisdell, Joseph S. 1992. An Essay on the Causes and Remedies of Poverty. Boston: A. Hall, Virtue, and Co.

Ellwood, Charles A. 2010. Sociology and Modern Social Problems New Jersey: Evans, Alison. 2000. Poverty Reduction In The 1990s: An Evaluation of Strategy And Performance.Washington D.C: World Bank Publications.

Ferrante, Joan. 2008. Sociology: a Global Perspective. New York: Cengage Learning.

Geyndt, Willy D. 1996. Social Development and Absolute Poverty in Asia and Latin America. Washington D.C: World Bank Publications.

Gladstone, David.1996. Poverty and Social Welfare, Volume 2; Volume 6. New York: Routledge.

Kelso, William A. 1994. Poverty and the Underclass: Changing Perceptions of the Poor in America. New York: NYU Press.

Harrison, Ann E. 2007. Globalization and Poverty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Katz, Fred E. 1976. Structuralism in Sociology: An Approach to Knowledge. New York: Lister, Ruth. 2004. Poverty. Cambridge: Polity.

Luthar, Suniya S. 1999. Poverty and Children’s Adjustment. Califonia: Sage. Read Books.SUNY Press.

Tanner, Michael. 1996. The End of Welfare: Fighting Poverty in the Civil Society. Washington:Cato Institute.

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