Intergenerational poverty is the relentless cycle in which poverty is passed down from one generation to the next, indicating that impoverished parents have impoverished children. This cycle occurs because of the lack of resources that poor citizens receive, such as inadequate healthcare and education. The most salient way to prevent the progression of intergenerational poverty is to invest in helping impoverished children around the world. Children who grow up in poverty are significantly more likely to have low incomes later in life compared to children who do not fall below the poverty line. However, providing support for impoverished children is not enough to improve intergenerational poverty. It is imperative to also invest in women’s rights as their parental contributions have a major impact on children and their future societal status. By providing resources and support to impoverished women and children, we can help stop the vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty and promote a more just, sustainable world.
5 Tangible Ways to Improve Intergenerational Poverty
- Provide more educational opportunities for poor women and children. Education is a major factor in improving intergenerational poverty as it enables greater social mobility. For instance, each year of college equals a 10% annual income increase compared to individuals who did not attend college, according to the American Enterprise Institute. Additionally, education and schooling teaches children to be independent but also encourages children to form important social connections. These connections would help provide impoverished individuals with more opportunities and resources to improve their social standing. Some educational interventions that would improve intergenerational poverty include investing in free and accessible preschool programs, providing free childhood interventions for low-income homes, and designing scholarships specifically for impoverished students.
- Encourage women to own assets. Another trigger for upward social mobility is owning assets. Asset ownership helps improve intergenerational poverty as it is an important investment that will provide future generations with an inheritance, automatically improving their social ranking and economic worth. The most valuable asset in low-income countries is land. However, “women hold only 1-2% of individually titled land,” which limits their agency and well-being. Therefore, it is important to support public policy interventions that enable poor populations to accumulate and preserve assets, as the transfer of assets to future generations will help to improve intergenerational poverty. Some specific policy interventions to promote female asset ownership include supporting the co-registration of land by both spouses, improving access to legal services, and reforming marriage laws so women receive a share of assets and inheritance.
- Support social protection for impoverished women and children. When an unexpected shock or crisis occurs, poor women and children are the most vulnerable in society as they do not have adequate resources to respond to the shock. For instance, when spouses get divorced, women often lose housing and other productive assets, and they are unable to provide for their children. As a result, it is very common for women who are experiencing downward mobility to withdraw their child from school which has lasting impacts on their career and societal status. Some examples of social protection measures for women and children include disability grants, access to healthcare, social pensions and child support grants.
- End discrimination and empower women. Many countries and cultures still consist of largely gendered and discriminatory societal norms. Fighting back against discrimination and promoting women’s empowerment has significant consequences for intergenerational poverty as it increases the number of resources and supports a mother provides for her child, and it improves the child’s well-being. Sexism is a deep-rooted societal issue that requires intense and drastic collaborative interventions to be resolved. Although they do not fix the issue, the following short-term solutions would empower women and improve intergenerational poverty by promoting equality. The solutions include organizing initiatives with men to promote equal parenting practices, providing more income-earning opportunities for women, and granting women access to financial services without having to receive permission from their husbands.
- Support programs and policies that promote good health, nutrition and sanitation practices. The health status of mothers has huge implications on the societal and health status of their children. This correlation needs to be addressed as children’s health is directly related to their social and cognitive development. For example, many impoverished children perform poorly in school due to their delayed development, which prevents them from receiving high-paying jobs, and as a result, continues the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Some specific policies that address global health issues and would improve intergenerational poverty include providing free healthcare for children under 5 years old, fee exemptions for low-income homes, supplementary nutrition for pregnant mothers, and providing free contraceptives and advice to women around the world. By promoting beneficial health practices, women are more likely to teach those practices to their children which will help to prevent illnesses, promote healthy development, and hopefully improve economic standing.
In order to address the intergenerational transmission of poverty, we must first acknowledge the societal norms that are contributing to the vicious cycle. By counteracting the suppressive standards with progressive policies, children are better able to escape poverty and contribute to the world economy.
– Ashley Bond