The Effects of Poverty

Poverty can have lasting impacts on both the people and communities in which it is present. The effects of poverty are often detrimental to both the health and education of people that are affected by it, and can lead to higher crime and mortality rates in neighborhoods and countries where the poverty level is high.

More than 10,000 children die every day because they live in poor housing. The effects of poverty on children are even more dangerous than for adults, because children are still developing. While in their developing stages, without access to healthy living conditions or secure access to food and water, children easily succumb to both disease and death. Living in a house that does not have adequate ventilation or proper heating can cause lasting damage to a child’s health, if they survive at all.

Poverty also affects education for people of all ages. Younger students will not be able to afford school supplies or clothes for school. As students get older, without a scholarship, secondary education and college are out of the question. Sometimes, even with a scholarship, they are not able to attend, because they have a family to support at home and need to work. Without adequate education, many people end up working for minimal pay, which keeps them impoverished for the duration of their lives and continues the cycle of poverty within the home.

The effects of poverty include high crime rates in affected communities. People without the proper resources to survive often resort to theft and violence in order to survive. Oftentimes, in high poverty areas there are also high unemployment rates, and because people are unable to obtain jobs, they resort to crime because they feel they have no other options.

The cycle of continued poverty also has a significant negative effect on the health of citizens. Substance abuse is often higher in areas with high poverty rates. This only continues to drive families deeper into poverty and continues the vicious cycle of poverty in the community. There are also more crippling accidents, because people in poverty tend to take jobs in unsafe working conditions to make money.

Poverty also has the power to divide society. The lower class is pitted against the higher class and vice-versa. This allows the gap between the two to become even larger without a chance to rectify the problem. In countries with large gaps between the two classes, the middle class is often small or nonexistent, which is an important stepping stone for people in a lower class to earn better wages. As that class disappears, the amount of impoverished citizens will continue to grow.

The effects of poverty are plentiful and widespread. The amount of crime, violence and death that run rampant in communities with high poverty rates are no coincidence, and are a direct result of the amount of poverty in that area. In order to diminish crime and violence in these areas, poverty has to be diminished first.

– Simone Williams

Photo: Flickr

worst consequences of poverty

The causes and effects of poverty are often deeply interrelated. However, some consequences of poverty are so troubling that they stand out and need to be studied individually. Focusing on some of the worst consequences of poverty can unravel the causes of poverty and provide insight into how to eradicate poverty.

Some of the worst consequences of poverty include:

Increased Crime

At first glance, it might be easy to conclude that crime is a cause of poverty and not the other way around. However, poverty can render people hopeless and desperate enough to engage in criminal activities. For instance, a study done by the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime found that, even after controlling for the effects of a range of other factors such as substance misuse and poor family functioning that can influence violent behavior, “poverty had a significant and direct effect on young people’s likelihood to engage in violence at age 15.” Individuals growing up in communities with high levels of deprivation were significantly more likely to engage in violent activities.

Notably, this study found that those from low socioeconomic backgrounds had a greater likelihood of engaging in violence even if they also belonged to a “low risk” background.

Limited Access to Education

Poor children typically attend schools with inadequate facilities and receive the kind of education that hardly provides them with the tools to further their studies or seek employment, thereby restricting them and their children to poverty, which becomes a vicious cycle of poverty across generations. Additionally, geography can dictate if they even get to attend school. For instance, while a poor child in the U.S. can still attend school, a poor child in a rural area of Bangladesh might not have that opportunity. Distance, lack of transportation and financial resources often make it very difficult for poor children in developing nations to get an education.

There are stark differences between children from poor and wealthy backgrounds even in first world countries. For instance, a study done in the U.K. found that by the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from wealthy households.

Health Issues

Health is perhaps the one area where poor people suffer the most. For instance, a disproportionately large percentage of diseases in low-income countries are caused by the consequences of poverty such as poor nutrition, indoor air pollution and lack of access to proper sanitation and health education. According to World Health Organization estimates, poverty-related diseases account for 45 percent of the disease burden in the poorest countries. Nearly all of these deaths are either preventable or treatable with existing medicines. For example, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS make up nearly 18 percent of the disease burden in the poorest nations. Tuberculosis and malaria can both be prevented and treated, and education is crucial for the prevention of HIV/AIDS.


A recent study done by the United Nations Development Programme found that deprivation and marginalization along with weak governance contribute to violent extremism in young Africans. The study was based on interviews with 495 voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab and suggests that few economic prospects and little trust in the state to provide services and uphold human rights can lead an individual to partake in violent extremism. The conclusion was derived from the fact that most of the recruits reportedly came from marginalized communities, expressed frustration regarding their economic conditions, and felt an “acute sense of grievance towards the government.”

These are some of the worst consequences of poverty. These effects of poverty prove that, in order to achieve peace and safety in the world, poverty alleviation must be a focus.

– Mehruba Chowdhury

Photo: Pixabay