Effects of Poverty

The effects of poverty are so tightly interwoven with its roots that at times it results very difficult to determine if a poverty-related issue is a cause of it or caused by it.  Using education as an example of this: people living in poverty have limited access (if any at all) to education at any level, which in turn makes it nearly impossible for them to find a job with a wage that allows them to gain access to education. These people continue to be poor and their children are born into poverty, with no hopes of improving their lives. These causes-effects, or factors, that perpetuate poverty in a household are known as the cycle of poverty. Families who fall in this cycle tend to stay in it “for enough time that the family includes no surviving ancestors who possess and can transmit the intellectual, social, and cultural capital necessary to stay out of or change their impoverished condition” (Melio, 2015).

Poor Kids in Rishikesh, India - Wikipedia


Another of the causes-effects of poverty is crime. Statistics reveal that these two issues are geographically related, e.g., one is certain to find crime where poverty abounds. This is not at all surprising, considering that the instability brought in by crime discourages entrepreneurs from investing their money in regions where they would be working at a loss. The lack of investment results in the absence of job positions and a rise in crime, as poor people are faced with two options: partaking in criminal activities or signing up for underpaid ⎯often hazardous⎯ jobs if any are available.

While stunting the economic growth of a country is the biggest cause of poverty and crime within it; limited access to education and social inequality are significant aiding factors. In fact, research suggests that they generate different types of crime. According to Poverties.org, the amount of criminal offenses rises when there’s less access to education. The nature of these crimes is rarely violent in countries where there is little social discrimination; as poverty is linked at large with property theft and drug-related offenses. However, in places where inequality is strong violent crime is commonplace, as it is “a reaction to social bias and discrimination”.

Finally, when the perpetual tension between groups (both ethnic and social) is fueled by marked inequalities (mainly of income), poverty can be a threat to the overall stability of a country. In recent years, the disappearance of the middle class in western countries and the creation of a bigger lower class has often resulted in clashes and riots. It is then, no stretch of the imagination to say that the effects of poverty eventually reach all tiers of society.


In many countries around the world, healthcare is a private business. Whether it be because the public health system is faulty, or because it does not exist; the private alternative is often the only one. This results in the poor not being able to afford falling sick ⎯but with little to no access to sanitation, drinking water and safe food (dumpster-diving being a common practice among those living in poverty), diseases inevitably find their way to them. This is the reason why, on average, poor people have the shortest life expectancy.

Another effect of poverty, such as unemployment, directly affect the health of the underprivileged. With virtually no jobs available, they are forced to work in unsafe environments, which leaves them with crippling accidents and all kinds of diseases. This can compromise their mental health, which is also weakened by social discrimination and the levels of stress inherent to poverty.

Indian sewage worker inside a blocked sewer - Wikipedia


As pointed out by Poverties.org, “Nearly all possible effects of poverty have an impact on children’s lives”. This translates into child abuse and neglect, mobility, homelessness and exposition to drugs and alcohol. Children born into poor families are also likely to stay poor throughout their lives.

But poverty does not only affect children in the shape of external factors. Children are often born underweight, which, according to the Center for the Future of Children, is “the key risk factor for infant mortality”. It also has the potential to “permanently retard physical growth, brain development and cognitive functioning” (Center for Hunger and Poverty, 1998). This, in addition to the parents’ low educational level, leads to kids who enter school behind their peers and fail to level out throughout their academic career ⎯in case they finish it. Statistics show that high-school students coming from poor families are more likely to drop out than their non-poor peers.

Children who live in poverty are also at a greater risk of experiencing emotional and behavioral problems. Pilyoung et al, say that “early experiences of poverty become embedded within the organism, setting individuals in life-long trajectories that portend morbidity”, in other words, the effects of poverty on the mental health of children are so lasting that those who grew up poor still experience said effects, even if they are no longer in a situation of poverty.


With the social changes made in the last decades, more and more women are finding themselves in the position of having to suddenly live on their own, or having to raise their children alone. Throughout history, women have been systematically offered less resources than men to procure their advancement; consequently, they often lack the economic stability (e.g. a job that pays a living wage) or an education required to provide for themselves and their families. This is the reason behind the on-going trend of women ⎯and single-parent families comprised of mothers and their children⎯ having to face the effects of poverty at rates disproportionately high in comparison to men (Mount Holyoke College, 2010).

What are your thoughts about the Effects of Poverty? What can we do about it? Please share your comments.


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