Poverty: Its Causes and Effects

A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn highlights various subject matters with regards to human struggles and problems faced by different people on a daily basis. One that stands out in several stories in the book is poverty, and its impact on the people living in it. Destitution, which is a multifaceted problem that can be considered a social and economic issue, has become a great concern for the global community over the years. Despite it being clear that the most devastatingly impacted are people from developing nations in particular from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, poverty can also be found in the developed, or better referred to as first world countries. Studies show that about 1.1 billion people in the world live in poverty. It results in severe complications bringing about death, great suffering, misery, and hopelessness of living. The eradication of poverty is part of the Millennium Developments Goals, and at the moment there is still a lot of work to be done before achieving this goal. Accordingly, organizations such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank mainly lean towards it. The world should declare poverty a disaster and tackle it collaboratively because it affects both the local and the global community by increasing crime rates, insecurity, and overall community development.

Root Causes

One of the main causes of poverty is an unequal distribution of wealth. The current gap between the rich and the poor is shocking, as in today’s economy, the rich are extremely rich, while the others are desperately poor. It is a common problem in the developing countries, as they attempted to solve it to an extent by the creation of the middle class, which is being eliminated despite their efforts. The key reason of such unequality among the countries is that the majority of them is suffering from a disease described by some as a cancer that has been hard at work in ensuring equal distribution of wealth is never realized. This cancerous disease is corruption, as its level in some of the developing countries is bewildering. Hence, it mostly occurs in government agencies whereby money is placed in the individual pockets of government officers. Consequently, money meant to develop the nation and pocketed by various officials result in the rise of rich people and poor people who serve them. Most of stolen money is that which has been set aside to finance education, health care, disaster management, and overall development. More so, the unequal distribution of property emanates from the tax regime that is put in place by governments. Respectively, in developing countries, it is surprising that low income earners pay higher taxes compared to high income earners hence affecting income patterns and the influencing wealth distribution. It is because most of the properties of the latter are spared from taxation, even though it can assist with the alleviation of poverty and advancement of community growth.


War and civil unrest are another phenomena that have been around for a long time as major causes of poverty. Whenever there is war, poverty is right in its wake waiting to pounce on the affected. It happens because of a number of reasons. Firstly, when wars occur the people fighting have no time to participate in the economy building activities. Likewise, they no longer go to farms, attend schools, or open their shops for business, as their focus shifts entirely to the war. As a consequence, it leads to an interruption in economic activities, which eventually causes poverty. Moreover, destitution comes about especially because individuals are no longer capable of earning to sustain their families in a proper way. Secondly, wars cause destruction of what has already been built. That is, there is normally demolition of property, land, and resources for the economic growth. Accordingly, with nothing left to salvage the situation, poverty quickly sets in. The destruction also sabotages economic development of countries as it limits the investment space and subsequent employment opportunities for citizens. Thirdly, war leads to poverty because it destroys the most viable members of the community. It is because whenever there is war, it is the strong young people who are chosen to defend the community. Most of them die, leaving behind the old and children who lack the capacity to drive the economy. In this situation, poverty intensely strikes communities, as can be demonstrated using a country like Somalia, which up to today lacks a sufficient economic structure following the civil war of the various Somali communities.

Another major cause of poverty is ignorance, which in this respect refers to the lack of information or knowledge. It results from people not being able to access education, which is the simplest way of overcoming the problem. Ignorance has contributed to the growth of poverty because it prevents people from developing problem-solving skills, which they can use to deal with the issue. Some people are so ignorant that they fail to see the significance of education in their lives. Many of these people do not send their children to school, despite it being a place that equips with knowledge, enables secure employment and other life skills that can help improve their lives. Ignorance also causes poverty because it provides an opening for opportunists to come and take away the resources that the poor people would have used to improve their lives. For instance, there have been many stories reported about multinationals taking away land from the poor and setting up large corporation buildings or malls. Hence, due to lack of knowledge people would sign away their rights to property of land, which has ended up being valuable. For example, there are people who obtain land rich in minerals or oil, but due to their ignorance they continue living in poverty. The worst thing about it is that some of it has been perpetuated by religious beliefs. In some African countries, for instance, there are people who refuse medical treatment in hospitals and other health facilities because their faith prohibits it. As a consequence, many of them die leading to increased poverty as the remaining few are not able to run the economy.

Effect on Local Community

One relevant effect of poverty on a local community is that it increases crime in the afflicted public. In destitution people lack a way of earning a living, thus the level of unemployment skyrockets. When pushed into a level of desperation whereby children are going to bed hungry and on the verge of death because their parents cannot afford food and health care, the only seemingly sensible solution is to turn to crime. Poverty has contributed to the rise of unethical and illegal businesses such as prostitution, pimping, drug trafficking, robbery, kidnapping, illegal gambling, which further worsen the poverty situation. The people living in the community no longer feel safe when they are abused by the authority that has been charged with the responsibility of protecting them. Nevertheless, to an extent the authority should not be entirely blamed for such abuse. It is because the high rate of crime in some of these poverty stricken communities is so high that the authority has a hard time in combating it. Further, it is not easy for them to distinguish between the innocent and guilty members of the community. Hence, other problems have emerged from this one impact of poverty. Prostitution and pimping lead to the spread of venereal diseases such as HIV/AIDS and to increased rates of rape, as some of the young girls are forced into the life of prostitution. In addition, it leads to unwanted pregnancies and, as a result, a rise in abortion-related deaths. The selling of drugs, in its turn, causes many youths to become a liability to the community due to their addiction. Overall, crime as an effect of poverty brings about the loss of lives and stability to the afflicted communities.

Another impact is the transmission of the poverty cycle from one generation to another. Hereby, when a community is afflicted with poverty escaping this state of life can be difficult. Some people from these communities manage to find their way out, but the majority remains enslaved to it. Therefore, the vicious cycle of poverty is passed down from a parent to a child who will in turn pass it down to their children. Furthermore, unemployment results in children not being able to acquire education. They, therefore, become uneducated adults living in poverty, thus condemning their children to grow likewise. In detail, being raised in poverty makes children think there is no other way of life other than their current one. Consequently, they become hopeless and acquire the beliefs of their parents about education being unimportant. It has been the reason behind the unending levels of poverty in the local communities. Individuals tend not to think that poverty could be eliminated because of the suffering they undergo from an early age as a result of the vicious cycle. All in all, the cycle of poverty has an effect on access to education among the communities, hence posing a challenge to any given chance of success for its members.

Effect on Global Community

Extreme poverty has become a challenge affecting the entire world, which can be demonstrated in a number of ways. To start with, poverty can threaten the security of many nations, as it destroys the ability of weaker states to prevent spread of diseases, which ultimately end up afflicting even the developed states. For instance, the recent spread of Ebola, originally believed to come from Africa, impacted Western nations in social and economic aspects. Further, many of these weaker nations become unable to protect the environment leading to global problems such as climate change. It comes about as a result of the inability to control the management of waste disposal among these countries. Secondly, poverty creates conducive conditions for transnational criminal and terrorist groups. Accordingly, it tends to make people, especially the youth, susceptible to recruitment into the kinds of groups such as Al Qaeda. The target grounds of recruitment for these groups is countries where the unemployment rates are high. For instance, they recruit youths from countries such as Somalia or Mauratania to use them to launch terrorist attacks on developed countries such as France. Thirdly, poverty has impacted the global community by creating tension leading to civil wars among communities. The result has been the creation of an opening for transnational predators to act within the affected nations and take the little wealth that has been left. Thus, the impact of poverty is not confined to the directly affected communities, but, due to globalization, it influences the ones on the opposite side of the world. For this reason, nations should work together to try and find a way of combating this enemy so as to escape its destructive impact on their wellbeing.


It is imperative that solutions be found on how to fight poverty, as its impact on the affected people is devastating. It has destroyed lives, dreams, and caused many deaths. The solutions to poverty vary and they greatly depend on the specific causes of poverty and the impacted people. These solutions can be provided by organizations willing to offer their help. For this reason, people who have the possibility are encouraged to come together and form organizations for this purpose. Hence, Kristof and WuDunn provide a list of organizations that are committed to fighting poverty. One such organization is Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, which is committed to organizing various rigorous and randomized controlled trials meant to determine cost-effective interventions for fighting poverty. The benefit of this is that it has led to a lot of money being saved, since it is spent only on those projects that show the viability for success. The organization, being founded in 2003, has worked to ensure that policies formed to fight poverty consider the scientific evidence on it including its potential to succeed. It has gone a long way in making certain that the poor benefit from projects established to improve their lives. A first world citizen could support the solution by reaching out to the developing countries through educational initiatives geared toward the elimination of poverty. As the saying goes, it is vital to show someone how to fish rather than giving them a fish. Thus, this understanding should lead a first world citizen to come up with initiatives to eradicate the issue instead of settling on short-term solutions such as food relief, etc. The truth remains that poverty is one of the problems that has caused mankind a lot of suffering, and, still, it is a long away from freeing itself from this menace. Nonetheless, it is imperative to strive towards this freedom by putting up efforts as those organizations like Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab. It should be noted that individuals too can participate, hence, the responsibility should not be handled to the charity organizations and governments. The validity of the project is high because, while investigating the root cause of poverty it has been established that its causes and effects to an extent are the same. It may be explained by the fact that many of them lead to more than one impact, whereas the main root causes of poverty highlighted in this paper are unequal distribution of wealth, war, civil unrest, and ignorance among the people. 

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