Issues like hunger, illness, and poor sanitation are all causes and effects of poverty. That is to say, that not having food means being poor, but being poor also means being unable to afford food or clean water. The effects of poverty are often interrelated so that one problem rarely occurs alone. Bad sanitation makes one susceptible to diseases, and hunger and lack of clean water makes one even more vulnerable to diseases. Impoverished countries and communities often suffer from discrimination and end up caught in a cycle of poverty.
Effects of Poverty on Society
The vicious cycle of poverty means that lifelong barriers and troubles are passed on from one generation to the next. Unemployment and low incomes create an environment where children are unable to attend school. Children must often work to provide an income for their family. As for children who are able to go to school, many fail to see how hard work can improve their lives as they see their parents struggle at every day tasks. Other plagues accompanying poverty include:
- Crippling accidents as a result of unsafe work environments—consider the recent building collapse in Bangladesh.
- Poor housing—a long-lasting cause of diseases.
- Water and food related diseases that occur simply because the poor cannot afford “safe” foods.
Ultimately, poverty is a major cause of social tensions and threatens to divide a nation because of income inequality. This occurs when the wealth of a country is poorly distributed among its citizens—when a tiny minority has a majority of the money. Wealthy or developed countries maintain stability because of the presence of a middle class. However, even Western countries are gradually losing their middle class. As a result there has been an increased number of riots and clashes. For society, poverty is a very dangerous factor that can destabilize an entire country. The Arab Spring is a great example of how revolts can start because of few job opportunities and high poverty levels.
The number of children affected by poverty has been increasing since the 1960s. Children are those with the least amount choice and ability to change their circumstances. There is very little they can do to help their families, nor should they have to. Usually by the age of six they can be enrolled in child labor. Nearly all the potential effects of poverty impact the lives of children—poor infrastructure, unemployment, malnutrition, domestic violence, child labor, and disease. Simply analyzing the effects of child poverty on education in developed countries alone reveal some disturbing statistics:
- Children from poor backgrounds lag behind at all stages of education.
- By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be nine months behind children from wealthier backgrounds.
- By the end of primary school, students receiving free school meals are estimated to be about three terms behind their peers.
- By 14, this gap increases to over five terms.
- By 16, children receiving free school meals are about 1.7 grade points below their more affluent peers’ average GPA.
Effects of Poverty and Violence
The effect of poverty on terrorism is not as straightforward as the media often perceives it to be. Poverty fuels terrorism by creating a state of misery and frustration that pushes people to join terrorist organizations. But more research shows, it is more complicated.
Of course, some terrorists come from poor countries with high unemployment, and terrorist organizations often provide higher salaries than other jobs. But terrorism may not be a direct effect of poverty. So what is the source of frustration and anger?
Studies show that countries with weak governments, fragile institutions, and limited civil rights are a great environment to nurture the production of terrorist activity. Countries undergoing difficult transitions—i.e. from authoritarian to democratic regime—often encounter political instability with the blurring of certain rules and laws.
These periods of profound change come with a transformation of social order, values, and methods of governing that many people may find distressing and unsettling. Therefore, stabilizing and empowering political institutions is a crucial part of fighting against the dangerous consequences of poverty.
– Scarlet Shelton