Poverty: Its Causes, Impacts, Potential Solutions


The world community faces various significant issues that require urgent and comprehensive consideration to be resolved or at least mitigated. One such problem, which concerns every country without exclusion, is poverty that generally implies the state of lacking enough material resources or income to secure sustainable livelihoods and an individual’s basic needs. Its manifestations comprise malnutrition and hunger, unemployment, confined access to healthcare, education, other humanitarian services, social discrimination, and lack of policymaking involvement. Therefore, this paper aims at examining poverty to a global extent, including related facts and tendencies, its causes and impacts, poverty-associated issues, and potential solutions.

Facts and Statistics

Typically, poverty is divided into two types, such as absolute poverty and relative poverty. In particular, the former, indicating the acute shortage of means required to satisfy basic personal needs, including shelter, food, and clothing, concerns people who live less than $1.90 per day. As of 2017, the extreme poverty rate accounted for almost 700 million people, which is 9.2 percent of the world population (“Poverty,” 2020). The latter occurs when people cannot afford minimum living standards, such as a safe home, quality food, and water, clean clothes, or TV, and its floor varies based on observed countries. Considering this level, over 43 percent of the population lived less than $5.50 a day in the same year (“Poverty,” 2020).

High poverty rates are usually discovered in rural areas or regions with increased flood risk and economies affected by military conflict, fragility, and violence. Around half of the deprived people reside in Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and other middle-income countries (“Poverty,” 2020). It is also worth noting that although the poverty rate has steadily fallen since 1980, the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects are expected to result in an additional 100 million poor people (“Poverty,” 2020). The consequences of the current crisis may last by 2030, primarily striking developing states.

Causes of Poverty

Poverty and factors contributing to its growth are mostly interrelated, thereby creating the solid poverty cycle operating at personal, local, national, and global levels. The first cause is connected with geographical conditions, namely, climate, soil fertility, the availability of lands, forests, and other natural, including fossil, resources. Specifically, such adverse phenomena as droughts, floods, storms, and others, are typical in Sub-Saharan African and Southern Asian countries, repeatedly inflicting substantial and, sometimes, irreparable damage to harvest and infrastructure. With the rapid global warming progress, these calamities acquire more worldwide and frequent nature, causing food or water shortages or even hunger crisis and massive migration.

Inadequate food provision and limited access to clean water, in its turn, are also significant reasons promoting absolute and relative poverty. Presently, more than 800 million suffer from hunger, whereas over 2 billion people cannot afford constant access to clean water at home (Myers, 2018). When individuals do not have enough food and available clean water sources, they do not have the energy to work effectively and spend much time seeking these resources. This valuable time could be used to obtain an education and work to ensure a better life in the future. Moreover, poor nutrition and water quality lead to health deterioration and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and respiratory infections that are widespread in African countries. The absence of appropriate and affordable healthcare services only complicates the situation because these treatable illnesses become more regular, prolonged, and even fatal, especially for children. Childbirth and pregnancy may be death sentences for many women.

Finally, these indicated above factors immensely contribute to severe unemployment and poor education, which also occur due to prevalent conflicts and overpopulation. Poorly educated or illiterate individuals possess limited opportunities for a dynamic work environment, eventually fostering poverty. For instance, according to UNESCO, about 170 million people could escape extreme poverty if they at least left school with fundamental learning skills (Myers, 2018). In addition, joblessness also promotes the brain drain, especially of highly qualified workers, including healthcare and educational professionals. Ineffective governance, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and minimal national reserves only complicate the overall situation with poverty.

Socioeconomic Inequality and Marginalization

It is also worth discussing economic inequality separately, which is one of the most influential aspects of the poverty cycle. Inequality is generally associated with uneven distribution of wealth among the population and the systemic barriers that leave individuals without representation or voice in their communities. Marginalization based on race or gender affiliations and caste systems directly result from socioeconomic inequalities that imply little or no access of a person to the necessary resources to lead a productive life. For example, in the latest report, Oxfam indicates that the wealth of 2,153 billionaires exceeds those of the 4.6 billion people who comprise 60 percent of the global population (“World’s billionaires,” 2020). Oxfam also adds that “men own 50% more of the world’s wealth than women,” a clear sign of sexism (“5 shocking facts,” n.d.). Furthermore, during 25 years of emissions increase, the richest 10 percent have produced carbon pollution that is over twice that 3 billion people, the poorest half of humanity, have made (“Carbon emissions,” 2020). Overall, unequal distribution significantly promotes malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, criminalization, and child mortality.

Poverty Reduction Solutions

Different poverty reduction actions should be primarily directed at ensuring the basic human needs, including food, water, clothing, shelter, and increasing income needed to satisfy these needs. Specifically, utilizing advanced agricultural technologies, such as new irrigation methods and seed varieties, nitrogen fertilizers, and pesticides, food shortages can be considerably reduced by boosting yields. Besides, there is a necessity for education strategies that reduce non-attendance because of malnutrition, anemia, and diseases and provide partial or full payment for school meals.

The actions should also aim at mitigating unemployment, especially in fundamental sectors, to prevent or reverse brain drain, narrow the inequality gap, and ensure sustainable personal development. Oxfam notes that if the wealthiest one percent paid only 0.5 percent extra tax on their income for the following 10 years, it would generate 117 million jobs in education, childcare, and healthcare (“World’s billionaires,” 2020). In addition, it is recommended to broaden opportunities for females and promote the participation of middle and low-income persons in decision- and policymaking. Lastly, international organizations and local governments should strengthen cooperation concerning developing and realizing these strategies with adequate financial and evidence-based support.

In conclusion, the paper has examined the issue of global poverty, including related facts and statistics, its causes and impacts, poverty-associated problems, and potential solutions. As of 2017, over 43 percent of the world population lived less than $5.50 a day, the overwhelming majority of which reside in rural areas and economies affected by military conflict, fragility, and violence. Geographical conditions, namely, climate and natural resources, inadequate food and healthcare provision, limited access to clean water, severe unemployment, and poor education are among the primary causes and effects of poverty. Moreover, socioeconomic inequality and related marginalization based on race or gender affiliations play a critical role in poverty expansion by favoring malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, criminalization, and child mortality. To address this problem, poverty reduction actions should be directed at ensuring the basic human needs, increasing income, implementing relevant education strategies, and mitigating unemployment.


Carbon emissions of the richest 1 percent more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity. (2020). Oxfam International. Web.

5 shocking facts about extreme global inequality and how to even it up. (n.d.). Oxfam International. Web.

Myers, K. (2018). The top 9 causes of global poverty. ReliefWeb. Web.

Poverty. (2020). The World Bank. Web.

World’s billionaires have more wealth than 4.6 billion people (2020). Oxfam International. Web.