Generational Poverty

People living in generational poverty lack the resources to escape it, unlike their situational poverty counterparts - Photo Credit: Wikipedia

People with a background of generational poverty lack tools those in situational poverty have, therefore, it is extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, for them to escape poverty. It is useful to keep in mind that these people are victims of a poverty trap and they are born into disadvantage, which can persist through a lifetime. As mentioned by the Scottish Affairs Committee (2008), “disadvantage early in life can lead to lower educational achievement, which can itself mean lower wages as an adult and eventually, a lower pension”.

It is widely believed that people born and brought up in poverty have their own culture, hidden rules and belief systems, which entail them feeling like “society owes them a living” (Payne, 2005). While some of these patterns might be true, studies conducted on people who have successfully escaped generational poverty show that they felt “great shame and humiliation growing up in poverty” and that “outsiders perceived poverty to be their fault” (Beegle, 2003). In actuality, those with a background of generational poverty have tremendous barriers to overcome in order to escape the poverty trap.

While stereotypes can prove true for those living in generational poverty, the majority of people living in it remain in it because they have to overcome tremendous barriers to escape it - Photo Credit: Wikipedia


  • Impaired speech and school readiness: While poverty itself cannot affect a child’s speech, a limited access to food, health care and other resources, as well as the low educational levels of caregivers might be detrimental to said child’s speech development and first literacy experiences. This leads to children who enter school behind their well-off peers and fail to catch up.
  • Survivalist thinking: The concept of planning typically does not exist because there are everyday problems, such as health issues, paying rent and others, which need to be taken care of as they come. This way, long-term decisions are put down in favor of short-term, more urgent ones
  • Hopelessness: Because they think that there is no escape from it, those living in poverty don’t feel motivated to perform in their school and work environments. This, combined with a lack of positive role models makes it even harder them to overcome their situation.

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