Current events such as protests and political upheavals in Venezuela and Brazil have drawn attention to problems plaguing South America. Some of those problems, having been left unaddressed, have caused higher rates of poverty in Latin and South America. Below are several factors considered to be major causes of poverty in South America at present.
- Unequal distribution of wealth
In much of South America, particularly in well-known tourist countries, run-down slums exist next to wealthy urban areas in part due to unequal distribution of economic success. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Latin and South America are the most unequal regions in the world in terms of wealth. Corporations, politicians and unequal opportunities contribute in part to high poverty rates among the majority of the population.
In Brazil, wealth being hoarded by the top one or two percent of citizens has contributed to a high number of children living and earning money on the streets because their parents can no longer support them. Despite helpful tourism revenue, poverty rates in certain popular areas of South America rise steadily because of wealth inequality.
In South and Latin America, poverty can become a generational epidemic because of leftover institutions and sentiments from the Casta system. Casta was a complex system of written rules based on racial segregation similar to the Hindu Caste, where people were separated into societal classes based on appearance and ethnic makeup that determined where they could live, who they could marry, what jobs they could work and more. The system was popularized by early white colonialists in the region and the lingering effects of it have been among the causes of poverty in South America.
- Political turmoil
Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and others have undergone major changes in political leadership in recent months and years, and the lack of clear democratic process in a lot of these countries has been among the causes of poverty in South America. According to the Economist, Brazil and Colombia are set to elect new presidents in the coming months, but “they will do so amongst rising public anger over corruption, amid a plethora of corruption scandals across the region in recent years that have in many cases implicated high-level politicians.”
In Peru, for example, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski narrowly avoided impeachment after it was discovered he had ties to corrupt Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has admitted to paying bribes to governments. As has been proven multiple times, corrupt or destabilized governments often prove disastrous for the economies of the countries they oversee, which can only have a negative effect on the poverty level in the country.
In South America, the education gap mirrors the income gap between rich and poor. According to WorldFund, “74 million South Americans (about 12.4 percent of the region’s population) live on less than $2 per day. Over half of them are children. Children in the bottom income quintile complete an average of eight years of school versus over ten years completed by children in the top income quintile.” Access to quality education in South America for those living below the poverty line is incredibly rare and difficult to achieve. WorldFund states that “education investments are inadequate, poorly directed and favor high-income students.”
While conditions in South America are improving, progress in certain areas is slow. Those living in poverty in South America are often directly affected by the factors above. The introduction of more efficient and generous international aid programs to people in the region that need it is becoming more and more essential to help combat some of the causes of poverty in South America.
– Arianna Smith