Poverty is a global endemic, caused by a variety of factors that interact with one another. There are three types of poverty: extreme, moderate and relative. Extreme poverty entails lack of basic resources for survival including food, water, shelter and sanitation. There is a dire lack of education and health care among extreme poverty as well. Persons of moderate poverty have access to the basic means of survival, but just barely. Relative poverty entails low income compared to the national average income, and is highly prevalent in more developed territories. While poverty is experienced differently across time, space and culture, there are several causes that often overlap and create dire consequences.

Individuals are a noteworthy source of poverty. This is not to place the blame upon an individual who is born into or experiences poverty; “individuals,” in this context, refers to poor government practices, sadistic leaders, exploitation by peoples and governments and lack of collection individual actions. Social perceptions of individuals contributes to poverty, for cultural ideas about the relative worth of “others” places individuals in different social categories at birth which often determines the opportunities available to individuals in each group.

Causes of poverty that are primarily caused by people also includes corruption and decentralized civil society. Corruption is particularly harmful, for it inhibits development when leaders award themselves money that would otherwise be used for development projects. A history of colonization is a critical cause of poverty.

“Natural” causes of poverty include agriculture cycles, droughts, flooding, natural disasters and warfare. These phenomenons contribute to hunger and especially effect farmers. Limited resources and infrastructure to respond to such crises in developing countries also perpetuate inequality. Warfare has historically contributed to poverty, as it diverts resources from addressing poverty and structural issues to maintaining a robust military.

According to Global Issues, a significant cause of poverty is structural adjustment. Structural adjustment policies, influenced by globalization, are enacted by actors such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and prescribe conditions for loans. These policies cause a “race to the bottom” in which developing countries are forced to open their markets and compete with industrialized, developed economies. A reduction of resources for health, education and critical social services have increased poverty and inequality for people around the world.

Inadequate liberal practices contribute to poverty as well. According to Global Issues, “Free, subsidized, or cheap food, below market prices undercuts local farmers, who cannot compete and are driven out of jobs and into poverty … Many poor nations are dependent on farming, and so such food aid amounts to food dumping.” A lack of cohesion among aid, international organizations and the opinions of local culture is a significant cause and perpetrator of poverty.

In order to combat the root causes of corruption, numerous actions need to be enacted simultaneously. There ought to be an improvement in the government capacity to provide universal access to essential goods and services to an area, such as potable water, affordable food, healthcare, education, housing and other social services. In addition to rooting out corruption, there needs to be broadened access to education and technology among marginalized groups, especially among girls and women.

Neti Gupta

Sources: GDRC, Global Issues,
Photo: Flickr