Published 11 Apr 2017

Poverty is defined as the condition of having little money and few material possessions (Wikipedia, 2007). People who live in poverty are deprived of the basic necessities for every day living, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Poverty exists all over the world, with the highest percentage of people living in poverty in Sub-Saharan South Africa (Wikipedia, 2007). Poverty even exists in the United States but at lower percentages. Poverty is an unacceptable way for people in today’s wealthy society to live, and a resolution to minimize the problem should be developed.

There are many factors that contribute to poverty: climate or environment, lack of employment, geographic factors, disease, living in third world countries that lack infrastructure, development, healthcare, or education, crime, substance abuse, depression, and the list goes on and on. There are also factors that contribute to poverty that are generally overlooked such as loss of job, financial hardship, and death in the family. Many people in the United States who find themselves living in poverty did not start out that way, whereas in other countries people are born into poverty.

In the United States, whether or not someone qualifies as living in poverty is determined by the United States Census Bureau. According to the Census Bureau, there are 48 possible poverty thresholds in the United States. This official measure of poverty in the United States was established by the Office of Management and Budget in the Statistical Policy Directive 14 established in May 1978 (Census Bureau, 2007). The United States has also established programs to assist those who live below the poverty threshold such as healthcare, welfare, and food stamps. People who live in poverty in other countries do not receive these types of benefits.

The top three regions in the world for poverty are Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific. On a positive note the percentage of people living in poverty in these regions has decreased in the last ten years, but there are still a lot of people living without the daily necessities of life. In these regions a vicious circle of poverty has developed. Those who live in poverty do not have the necessary resources to pull themselves out of their current situation. For example, starvation and poor hygiene leads to disease. The lack of healthcare means that these diseases can not be cured, and ultimately these people die at very young ages. Since 1990, one-third of all deaths have been a result of poverty. This is the equivalent to 18 million people every year, or 50,000 people each day (Wikipedia, 2007).

Another form of poverty that exists predominately in religious circles is called voluntary poverty or simple living. People who choose to live in poverty voluntarily do so in order to reach a moral or spiritual state in which they believe can not be reached if they do not live in poverty. The main religions who embrace this type of poverty are Buddhism and Jainism. Voluntary poverty due to religious purposes is meant as a form of self-denial, the religious institution is allowed to own wealth and goods. As such, this form of poverty does not meet the standard definition.

Reducing Poverty

Free trade and economic growth will help reduce poverty across the globe. The World Bank, partnered with agencies across the globe, developed an anti-poverty strategy that relies on the promotion of economic growth. The 2007 World Bank report “Global Economic Prospects” predicts that in 2030 the number living on less than the equivalent of $1 per day will fall by half, to about 550 million. However, this report also predicts that Africa will still have trouble keeping up with the rest of the developing world and will be home to a larger population of the world’s poorest people than it is today.

Direct aid from the government can also help reduce poverty as is seen in the United States. Direct aid from governments works well in the Western world. However, many governments in third world countries do not have the resources to assist those citizens who live in poverty. Private charities can assist in the reduction of poverty in those countries where the government can does not have the resources to reduce the poverty level. Most governments will encourage private charities to assist those people who live in poverty. Many people who live in poverty are unable to improve their situation due to lack of healthcare, lack of housing, lack of education, and lack of money. Subsidizing housing, education, healthcare, and employment can assist in stopping the vicious poverty circle.

The United Nations Millennium Project has developed a Millennium Development Goal which will reduce extreme poverty and hunger by 2015. Some of the goals of this project include: offering healthcare free of charge in developing countries, free school meals for school children, eliminating school fees, providing soil nutrients to farmers in sub-Saharan South Africa, and providing training programs for healthcare in rural areas. The UN target for development aid is %0.7 of GDP, currently only a few nations achieve this (Wikipedia, 2007). The World Bank, in conjunction with the IMF, has developed Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers. These papers allow a country to be considered for debt relief and assist with the overall reduction of poverty.

Poverty across the globe is a major concern that needs to be addressed. 270 million people have died from poverty since 1990. However, the percentage of people living without the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothing, and money continues to decrease each year due to the government programs and private charitable donations given to those living below the poverty threshold. In the sub-Saharan Africa region the poverty rate has decreased by 5% from 1990 to 2004 and will continue to decrease. The condition of having little money and few material possessions will slowly apply to less and less of the population, even if it does not disappear altogether. Poverty affects every nation on earth and each government should develop a strategic plan to reduce poverty within their nation as well as throughout the globe.


Wikipedia. (2007, November 27). Poverty. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty

United States Census Bureau. ( 2007, August). Poverty.

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