POTOMAC, Maryland — There is no clear answer when asking for the factors that cause poverty. Poverty remains one of the most complex issues in the world with no clear resolution in sight. The inequality gap between the rich and poor continues to grow, while almost three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. But why does poverty exist? That seems to be the million-dollar question that has not been adequately answered over the past decades. Although there is no simple answer to this question, there are many factors that contribute to this dilemma.
Here is a look at five causes of poverty:
1. Unequal Distribution of Wealth
All over the world, the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. There are rising disparities among distribution of resources in developing countries that perpetuate the cycle of poverty. In most places, the rich receive the largest share of income, while the poor receive a shockingly smaller portion. If wealth is not redistributed or incomes are not made to be more equal, poverty will always remain a huge issue.
Continuing with the topic of income inequality, countries that began their modern history with large inequalities evolve into societies that continue to hold these patterns of wealth distribution. Thus, countries that experienced colonization and slavery had trouble getting rid of the institutions that provided “higher class citizens” with more money and resources. Colonization also often led to discrimination, thus, those who were deemed inferior were more likely to become impoverished.
Discrimination, racism and prejudice all fit together to constitute a prime cause of poverty. This is seen all over the world including in the United States, where a person’s skin color or religion can play a huge role in the way she or he is treated in society. Those who are discriminated against often do not get the same opportunities and benefits as the rest of the country, so education and income levels are usually lower. As seen during apartheid in South Africa, the class that was favored received more advantages and rights than their peers.
4. Poor Governance
Governance does not solely reflect a government, but also the civil societies, networks or markets that exercise power over the management of a country’s social and economic resources for development. If corruption and political instability are rampant in these institutions, then the state will fail in fulfilling its responsibilities for the citizens and remain weak. In turn, high rates of poverty are usually found within countries with corrupt leaders, weak state institutions and no rule of law.
5. Environmental Degradation
Although often overlooked, environmental degradation can have a huge impact on poverty rates and the well-being of people. If resources are depleted due to climate change, natural disasters and deforestation, then citizens are more likely to be living in poverty. Environmental problems have led to shortages of water, food and materials for housing, as well as other essential resources. Without these items, the poor will not only remain poor, but also increase their chances of premature death. Clearly poverty is an issue that needs to hold our collective attention and spur our collective action.
– Leeda Jewayni