If you search up the definition of poverty on google, the first answer you will get is “the state of being extremely poor.” This statement alone is a very broad definition and could relate to many other things. Poverty affects so many people globally and goes further than not having a whole lot of money. According to compassionuk.org, “Poverty is far more complex than a number. Poverty has a face and a name.” In contrast, the World Bank’s definition of poverty is when a person's income level falls below a minimum level necessary to survive and meet basic needs. The minimum level and the international poverty line is living on less than $1.90 a day.
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In my opinion, poverty is much more than just not having money. When you think of poverty, most people would only think of not being able to have food, clothing, and shelter. Though it is also things like becoming sick and not being able to go to see a doctor or even not having access to a school to get an education. Poverty is living one day at a time. Always thinking about the future and how you will survive. As I mentioned before, poverty has a face. For instance, Compassionuk.org uses a great example to relate poverty to a face, “it’s a girl forced to marry because her family can’t support her. A mom who can’t buy medicine to save her baby’s life…”. This deeply shows how poverty affects more than just your living situation on another level. For many children, poverty will affect them from the beginning of their life, considering if they are born into it’s not. A child’s environment shapes how their future will be. A lack of relationships and ability to learn will hold them back from making a positive shift from a child to an adult, along with a multitude of health problems.
Poverty is often passed from one generation to the next, keeping in mind that it is a hard cycle to break. Only in rare cases where you get a big job offer or a lucky gamble would you be able to break that cycle. There are multiple effects that poverty will have on a family or particular person within the family. This includes alcohol and drug abuse, increased level of disease, minimal to no education, as well as proper housing and resources. Many assumptions on social hierarchy come from the idea of poverty. In many situations, people see certain race(s) as more likely to be in poverty than others. This causes tension between communities from inequality. For example, someone would be less surprised to see an African American or Mexican family in poverty than they would a white or Asian family. This often leads to a rise in crime in communities that are affected by poverty. High levels of stress and anxiety go along with being in situations like this, which would cause people to act irrationally or out of hand.
Scientifically there are 6 types of poverty, according to the book “Teaching with Poverty in Mind” by Eric Jenson. In this book, he explains all 6 types, situational, generational, absolute, relative, urban, and rural. Situational poverty is usually caused by a crisis or loss that is temporary. Some things that might cause situational poverty are divorce, severe health problems, or environmental disasters. Generational poverty, on the other hand, happens when at least two generations before you have been born into poverty. Families that suffer from this do not have the ability to get out of their situation. Absolute poverty is the rarest out of the six in the United States. The families that struggle in this type of poverty usually focus on day-to-day survival, due to the scarcity of life’s necessities such as clean running water, food, and shelter. Relative poverty is caused more by the economic status of a family. Thus a family’s income is insufficient to meet their society's average standard of living. Urban poverty occurs in areas with populations of at least 50,000 people. These urban people deal with a variety of chronic and acute stressors. This includes crowding, noise, and violence. Rural poverty happens in areas that have a population below 50,000. Rural places hold more single-guardian households, along with families that often have less access to services to support disabilities, and receive quality education opportunities. The book also mentions that there are also very few programs to help families transition from being on welfare to going to work.
Personally, I have known and even been friends with people in some type of poverty. Their households are usually crowded, noisy, and have many health and safety hazards throughout their home. I felt as if the parents and even the children in those households have spent more time worrying about surviving rather than enjoying life and exploring the world around them. Not only do they suffer from physical health issues, but also a lot of mental health concerns. Depression is a huge factor when struggling in poverty. Not being able to give your children a happy life and all of the toys or things they ask for can put a lot of stress and pressure on a parent. In addition to their hectic work schedules (if any), they are constantly worrying about where their next meal is going to come from and even if their electricity will stay on the whole week. If I took anything away from observing people take on poverty, it is to be grateful for everything that I have now, such as a great education, clean water, and a roof under my head every night.
To conclude, there are many different perspectives to the definition of poverty. My definition, however, is such that in any situation; money based or not, you are stripped of the opportunities that other people in your community can have; to live a happy and healthy life. As I have mentioned before, poverty is much more than “just not having money”. There is also a difference between being in poverty and being poor. When you’re in poverty, it goes along with your psychological state and mindset, because it may include social, economical, and political elements. This is where the difference comes in; when you are “poor” it is simply just an economical state and in most cases will only affect you money-wise. It has so many factors to it, that it is hard to have just one simple definition that would cover all aspects of it. Poverty affects so many people in the United States today, that it is difficult and impractical to imagine the world without it. There need to be more people aware of this specific word, so that it hopefully one day will be able to decrease substantially. Nonetheless, poverty is real.
- Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids' Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. ASCD.
- World Bank. (2022). Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022: Reversing Learning Loss. World Bank Publications.
- Compassion UK. (n.d.). What is Poverty? Retrieved from https://www.compassionuk.org/about-us/what-is-poverty/
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