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Rural Poverty and Urban Poverty

rural poverty and urban poverty rural poor definition
Poverty is not made up of a cut-and-dry set of circumstances. Rural poverty and urban poverty differ on many levels, with distinctive, environment-based issues that characterize quality of life.

There are similarities, of course, that span both rural and urban poverty. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) states that poverty usually entails deprivation, vulnerability and powerlessness. However, these issues are sometimes inflicted on certain individuals or groups more than others. For example, women and children are more likely to experience poverty more intensely than men and minorities tend to suffer more greatly than other groups.

The IMF reports that 63 percent of the world’s impoverished live in rural areas. Education, health care and sanitation are all lacking in rural environments. This causes many of the rural poor to move to cities, which often leads to a rise in urban poverty.


Compare and Contrast: Rural Poverty and Urban Poverty


The rural poor are divided into further subsets based on profession: typically, cultivators who own land and noncultivators who do not. Cultivators are slightly better off, as they are able to make some money operating farms and charging tenants for using their land. Noncultivators, however, are extremely poor, working as seasonal laborers on farms. Their pay is both low and erratic, as it is based on the schedules of farm owners and the other few employers available. The rural poor often suffer more than the urban poor because public services and charities are not available to them.

Several factors tend to perpetuate rural poverty. For example, political instability and corruption, customs of discrimination, unregulated landlord/tenant arrangements and outdated economic policies often make it impossible for the rural poor to rise above poverty lines.

While generally considered less severe, urban poverty provides the poor with a host of separate issues. The World Bank found that urban populations in developing countries are growing rapidly, at a rate of 70 million new city-dwellers per year. Former residents of rural areas are typically drawn to the city for the perceived wealth of economic opportunities, but often, those dreams fall short.

Compared to rural villages, there are indeed more job opportunities in urban areas. However, many migrants lack the skillset to take on many jobs, and positions for unskilled laborers fill up quickly. This shortage of jobs leaves new residents without a steady income, which creates a series of new problems in the city.

Without an income, the urban poor often find themselves in inadequate housing with poor safety and sanitation. Additionally, health and education packages are limited. Crime and violence are also much more rampant in urban settings than in rural ones, threatening the authority of law enforcement and the peace of mind of city dwellers.

Health is quite variable throughout rural and urban settings. While the rural poor lack access to urban health care programs, they sometimes benefit from the distance between the country and the city. In the close quarters that characterize city living, it is easy for disease to spread.

Additionally, communal resources in cities can actually lead to health problems. According to The Guardian, families usually have their own personal latrine, so if a health problem starts among the family, the latrine can be closed off and the health risk minimized. However, in cities where many people on a daily basis use public restrooms, disease can spread rapidly and tracking down the source can be nearly impossible.

Though rural poverty is currently higher than urban poverty, research shows that soon, urban areas will become home to the majority of impoverished people. The perception of greater opportunity leads the rural poor away from the countryside and into the cities, where they often end up in even further poverty. An overhaul of urban development programs is necessary to combat the issues with sanitation, safety and hunger that propagate urban poverty.

Bridget Tobin

Sources: World Bank, The Guardian, International Monetary Fund
Photo: Brommel