Education Prevents Poverty
Education is a key factor to reducing and preventing global poverty. Many countries around the world are beginning to realize the importance of education and are investing in it significantly. Making education available to 100 percent of people around the world is one way to ensure that poverty declines. Let’s look at the three most significant ways education prevents poverty.


3 Ways Education Prevents Poverty


1. Health

Education benefits people’s health throughout their entire lives, from a mother’s pre-birth lifestyle to the likelihood of developing diseases later in life. Women with at least six years of education are more likely to use prenatal vitamins and other useful tactics during pregnancy, thus reducing the risk of maternal or infant mortality. Also, the child of an educated mother is twice as likely to survive to the age of 5 than an uneducated mother. Finally, mothers who have received an education are 50 percent more likely to vaccinate their children at early ages than mothers with little or no education.

Later in life, educated people are less likely to contract diseases, particularly HIV/AIDS. At least 7 million new cases of HIV/AIDS could be prevented if primary education were universal. Studies show that AIDS spreads twice as fast in women who have not received an education. In some countries, schooling is considered a “social vaccine” against HIV infection because girls’ attendance at school is strongly associated with avoiding the infection.

In general, education increases people’s knowledge of how to live a healthy lifestyle. Educated people know what kinds of foods are most nutritious, and therefore are more likely to buy those healthier foods for themselves and their families. Educated mothers will know how to cook healthy meals for their families. An education also provides people with knowledge about vaccinations, clean drinking water and fitness. In most cases, an educated person is a healthy person.


2. Economic Growth

By educating an entire population, economic growth is a natural effect. Studies show that each extra year of schooling can increase a person’s salary by 10 percent later in life. This means that a country’s GDP can increase by 1 percent annually by providing education to its entire population. Increasing a country’s GDP creates innumerable opportunities for trade and development.

Education also creates more people who are ready for the workforce. More workers in a country means fewer people will be unemployed. Unemployment has a high correlation with poverty; therefore, by employing more people, a country’s poverty rate will naturally decrease.

No country in the world has achieved rapid and consistent economic growth without at least 40 percent of its adult population being literate. Education can motivate people to become harder workers and can give people the drive to move up in the workforce. Increasing the literacy rate in a country can drastically improve economic development.


3. Empowers Women and Girls

Education has proven to benefit women and girls at a higher rate than boys. The empowerment that girls receive from an education both personally and economically is unmatched by any other factor. Women who are educated are usually better decision makers and have higher self-confidence. They are more knowledgeable about how to care for their families. Studies show that in Kenya, if female farmers were provided the same amount of education and resources as male farmers, crop yields could increase 22 percent. This idea can be applied globally.

Educated women are also more likely to delay marriage and have children when they are truly ready. This can ensure that the family will be well taken care of because the mother is prepared for the responsibilities of being a parent. Educated women have a higher likelihood of preventing their children from dying from preventable causes.

In poor countries, each additional year of education beyond grades three or four can provide women with a 20 percent increase in yearly salary. This allows families to be completely self-sufficient. The satisfaction that comes from a woman being able to provide for her family is immeasurable.

  — Hannah Cleveland

Sources: Results, World Education Blog
Photo: U.N.

How to Prevent Poverty
Understanding how to prevent poverty has been an issue of great concern both in the United States and across the globe. Countries like the U.S., in a position to prevent poverty in less developed nations, are particularly interested in determining the causes of poverty in order to effectively alleviate poverty at home and abroad. By understanding what it is that leads to impoverishment in specific communities and countries, poverty reduction efforts are more likely to prevent poverty all over the world.

Though poverty and extreme poverty, as terms, have been defined as living under a certain dollar amount per day, what causes poverty is often much more complicated. The World Bank defines global poverty as a pronounced and multidimensional deprivation in wellbeing. That is, what it is to be considered poor or impoverished depends on a number of different conditions and factors that vary from community to community. For example, one family may have the dollar amount sufficient to feed itself but lack adequate access to education or water.

Because poverty represents such a wide variety of conditions, how to prevent poverty is an issue that requires a complex understanding of the circumstances in which one is working. Not only that, effective poverty prevention and reduction strategies will necessarily include either a multidimensional approach or take place in a network of projects that strive to prevent or reduce poverty on various levels. For instance, Plan Canada, a Canadian-based charity organization founded in 1937, takes a five-step approach in its strategy to prevent poverty worldwide.


Plan Canada’s Tools for How to Prevent Poverty


  • Education – Providing a quality education to children will create positive change in a child’s life.
  • Healthcare – Adequate access to healthcare is essential to ensuring health and wellness.
  • Water and Sanitation – Prevention of disease in communities is largely dependent on adequate facilities.
  • Economic Security – Though economic growth is not required, economic security provides families with sufficient stability to count on a consistent family income.
  • Child Participation – Helping children learn their rights and engage in civic duties sets the foundation for a strong community.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that slower population growth and investments in reproductive health and HIV prevention, as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality are also important steps toward preventing poverty. In fact, the UNFPA considers universal access to reproductive health information and services to be an “essential” condition to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

How to end poverty is a complicated question, but significant research like that taken to synthesize the reports discussed above suggests that it is not an impossible question to answer. Quite the contrary, there are thousands of organizations across the globe working on just that question every day. Collaborative and coordinated efforts, in recognition of the diverse causes of poverty, will no doubt win the day. In the meantime, these strategies continue to develop in scope and sophistication.

– Herman Watson

Sources: The Borgen Project, Plan Canada, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Population Fund
Photo: Soda Head