Poverty and homelessness spread throughout the world, despite efforts being made to alleviate these issues. Social psychology studies explain factors that contribute to the cycle of poverty, as well as what to focus to prevent them. Below are 10 facts about the cycle of poverty for consideration.
10 Facts About the Cycle of Poverty
- Homeless and poor people often elicit a neural reaction of disgust, according to fMRI studies conducted by looking at brain activity. These studies were done by psychologists Lasana Harris and Susan Fiske. This creates a process of dehumanization. These outgroups (i.e. impoverished persons) are considered to experience different complex human emotions, which feeds into acceptance of poverty. People in poverty can be viewed as responsible for their situation and not being “as human” as more privileged people, Harris and Fiske found.
- In a certain way, media attempts to humanize these people by giving personal stories of homelessness or poverty. However, this has a backfiring effect. Media over-exposes human suffering to the point of desensitization, leading citizens to ignore it and decrease caring attitudes, according to studies conducted by psychologists Elizabeth Paluk, Eldar Shafir, and Sherry Wu.
- Most poverty alleviation methods focus on only one factor, such as income per capita. However, poverty should be assessed not only by economic factors, but social, moral and political as well. “The use of income alone draws policy attention away from the underlying causes of poverty and processes that perpetuate poverty and obscures the social and health dimensions of poverty,” social psychologists Parthiban Gopal and Nor Malina Malik stated.
- Evaluating poverty in Malaysia, Gopal and Malik found out that women who escaped poverty relied on herself, planned long term, took risks, used her resources and was courageous about trying new ventures and possibilities to make life better. Programs should not just provide aid for those in need but should facilitate mechanisms of self-reliance that teach people in poverty ways to take risks and use their resources to escape the cycle, according to Gopal and Malik.
- The cycle of poverty perpetuates disease due to inaccessibility to resources and poor living environments, that in turn perpetuates the cycle of poverty due to inability to work and costs of treatments. According to Health Poverty Action, diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria account for nearly half of all child deaths globally. These are very treatable diseases but are often life-threatening in impoverished areas.
- Health Poverty Action (HPA) is a global project that strives to relieve health issues in impoverished countries. In Ethiopia, 7,412 women were able to access government health services in the areas this organization works. This represents an increase of 38 percent since the start of the project in 2016. In Nambia, for example, HPA facilitated a 55 percent reduction of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases compared to 2016.
- According to Gopal and Malik, the main causes of urban poverty were the low level of education, lack of job opportunities, large family size and lack of access to social facilities. Organizations such as the HPA, that are providing more health, reproductive and education access to these impoverished areas can help break this cycle.
- The lack of jobs in rural poor environments causes the poor to migrate to urban areas in hope of finding jobs, furthering perpetuating urban poverty. Therefore, policies should focus on creating more employment opportunities in rural areas as well.
- The World Bank is partnering with China, where employment opportunities have been flourishing, to promote job creation and economic development in struggling countries. They work with developing countries’ governments to advise them in creating a better economy and society for the poor, according to Axel van Trotsenburg, Vice President of Development Finance.
- Climate change also gravely affects impoverished countries. In Africa, where the years of life lost to climate changes are predicted to be 500 times higher than in Europe, two-thirds of the workforce work in agriculture. However, countries can adapt to this by reducing their emissions and promoting a more sustainable way of living. HPA suggests wealthy countries, like the U.S., need to step up and set an example for developing countries.
These 10 facts about the cycle of poverty can improve understanding of this important issue. It is important to understand humans unconscious bias of dehumanization towards impoverished people so that they can consciously change it.
In order to reduce poverty, solutions must focus on the multi-dimensional causes of poverty. It is also vital to examine examples of people who have escaped the poverty cycle. Projects like HPA are facilitating much positive change by increasing accessible health services and reducing poverty in countries around the world. With a greater focus on sustainable living and more funding for programs like HPA, organizations can combat the global poverty cycle.