causes of poverty, poverty

The Causes of Poverty (3): Overview

poverty

(source)

When examining the causes of poverty, it’s useful to distinguish types of poverty:

1. Types of poverty

Poverty has many dimensions, monetary and non-monetary, absolute and relative, material and psychological. One can distinguish between three types of poverty:

Poverty “type A”

Insufficient resources to meet basic needs, such as nutrition, shelter, health and education. This insufficiency can result in the following material symptoms of poverty:

Poverty “type B”

Apart from these absolute monetary and non-monetary kinds of poverty, there is also relative poverty: people compare themselves to others, mostly others who are relatively close by and better off. This inequality of income or consumption can result in the following psychological symptoms of poverty:

  • Feelings of loss of dignity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of relative powerlessness
  • Feelings of lack of participation in culture and politics
  • Feelings of discrimination and resentment.

As you can read in this post, poverty type A is often linked to poverty type B, i.e. the more unequal a society, the more people suffer from absolute poverty.

Poverty “type C”

A third kind of poverty is vulnerability, the actual or perceived risk of future poverty. This vulnerability can result in the following psychological symptoms of poverty:

  • Fear, stress
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Irrational precaution measures
  • Family planning decisions
  • Migration.

2. Measuring poverty

These are three kinds of poverty. Not all of them can be easily measured. Some perhaps cannot be measured at all. Even the apparently easy ones, such as infant mortality rates or income levels, can and do pose problems, such as the availability of data (poor countries often do not have the institutional resources to generate high quality statistics), international comparability of data, definitions of data etc.

However, it is important to measure the levels of poverty and their evolution as good as we can. Only if we have data can we judge the effectiveness of specific programs to alleviate specific symptoms of poverty.

Some traditional measures of some symptoms of poverty “type A” above are:

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP, or total annual country income) per capita or per citizen
  • Calorie intake levels (an average adult male has to eat food representing approximately 2000-2500 calories per day in order to sustain the human body)
  • Level of income (e.g. “1 $ a day” level, which is the World Bank definition of extreme poverty level; moderate poverty is less than $2 a day; these levels are of course expressed in purchasing power parity)
  • Number of years in education
  • Literacy levels

See an overview of measures here.

Poverty “type B” above is traditionally measured using the Gini coefficient (see here) although most symptoms of this kind of poverty, as well as “type C” poverty, are intangible.

The difficulties of aggregating the different available measures, together with the difficulties of measuring other indicators, result in the impossibility to establish a single, binary poverty indicator, “are you poor or not”, yes or no type of indicator. One may be poor according to one indicator but not according to another. On the other hand, you may not be poor according to any indicator but the fact that you skim the borders of many indicators may result, on aggregate, in poverty nevertheless.

As a result, many scientists and politicians use a simplified rule to establish poverty, for example the “1 $ a day” rule, of some other kind of poverty level expressed quantitatively.

It is also important to measures the time frame of poverty, i.e. incidental or chronic poverty. This difference should be taken into account when devising policies. Moreover, the depth of poverty should be measured. This depth is the distance to the poverty line. Just below the poverty line or way below makes a lot of difference.

3. Causes of poverty

When you know what kind of poverty people suffer, and when you have measured their poverty, you can start to look at the causes of their poverty. This will be important once you start working on the solutions.

The causes can be of different kinds:

  • Accidental causes, such as drought, disease, birth defects, handicaps etc.
  • Historical causes, such as colonialism
  • Economic causes, such as energy prices, food prices etc.
  • National political causes, such as bad governance, corruption, absence of the rule of law, rights violations, war, oppression, misguided agricultural policies, lack of investment in economic infrastructure and education etc.
  • International political causes, such as trade policy, protectionism etc.
  • Social causes, such as racism, sexism, discrimination, ethnic division
  • Individual causes, irresponsible behavior, self-destructive behavior
  • Demographic causes such as overpopulation or a high percentage of people who are too young or too old to be economically active
  • Geographic causes such as access to fertile land, fresh water, minerals, energy, and other natural resources
  • Environmental causes, such as climate change, soil erosion and desertification etc.
  • Poverty traps

4. Solutions

Continue reading here.

percentage population living on less than 1 dollar day

percentage population undernourished

Standard

57 thoughts on “The Causes of Poverty (3): Overview

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  20. Anonymous says:

    wE SHOULD ALL TRY AND STICK TOGETHER AND USE OR MONEY WISELY SO WE CAN GET AND HAVE THE THINGS THAT WE ALL NEED IN LIFE

  21. Usman H Mshelizah says:

    I believe that poverty is real especially we that are in Africa and Northern Nigeria in particular, where as a result of poverty now, the few trees we have the Forest are no longer existing because people cannot afford kerosene. This does not mean that Nigeria is poor but because of the corrupt leaders we are having.

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  25. Becky says:

    This article is very crucial and i liked it so much. It provides a clear information to almost everybody,i regard it as useful to my study. The critical part is that it lacks refeernce.

  26. mansour says:

    thank you for this important article; it is really a very useful source;i have a little question since i have this paper to submit that requires an academic data base like jstor or Google scholar, can i know if it is possible to say that this information is coming out of trusted source? believe it got nothing to do with me personally, and the article would be a great sources and i really need it . Thanks again

  27. mansour says:

    thank you for this important article; it is really a very useful source;i have a little question since i have this paper to submit that requires an academic data base (or source than can be traced back and reliable) like jstor or Google scholar, can i know if it is possible to say that this information is coming out of trusted source? believe it got nothing to do with me personally, and the article would be a great sources and i really need it . Thanks again

  28. kiki says:

    its a sad thing to say that some people are poor but in a way we should still give thanks for them being alive.some of us complain about things in life and don’t even make a fuss to try and help the people so to my opinion the rich people should give because they were once poor and then they shall have many blessings

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  35. Zegar says:

    this is great article but i m not agree with the causes of poverty, these are five, 1. Illness, 2. Literacy, 3, uncaring, 4. unfaithfulness 5. Dependency

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  37. rishabh nagpal says:

    i want the criteria for measuring poverty but the data tht is providsed is nt sufficient and it is not appropriate !! how to simply say tht a person is poor or not or on what basis/..??????

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  39. Why some of the country have all resources nessecary for expelling poverty but still they have this disaster ? . Such resources are mining sector, national parks, wardlevel secondary school but still they are poverty.

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  42. its sad 2 let our selves hvn nothng 2 do, and our sadness ended at here, together as a young generation we can organize smhng realy practically 2 do! By the way, thnx its gud article

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  45. sat says:

    Hi, Your article is very informative and good. I want to use some of its information in my homework. can you mention references that you have use for article?
    regards

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