Causes of Poverty

Addressing Causes of Poverty: Possible Solutions

Though there is much wealth in the world, there is also much poverty. Globally, 736 million people live under the poverty line, earning $1.90 a day or less.1 With this extreme poverty comes a myriad of issues, such as poor nutrition, poor sanitation and poor education. To address the various issues associated with poverty, it’s important to consider the many causes of poverty.

Some causes are cyclical in nature, which can make it extremely difficult for people to overcome poverty. For example, generational poverty is often accompanied by a poverty mindset that is passed down from one generation to the next. This mindset may prevent individuals from hoping for a better future; instead, they believe their current circumstances of impoverishment and lack is how things will always remain.2

Such scarcity can also create a myopic focus on immediate needs, causing one to “overvalue immediate benefits at the expense of future ones,” as indicated in an article featured on Psychology Today’s website.3 Impoverished parents, particularly in developing countries, may put children to work for an extra income or offer a daughter in child marriage to alleviate expenses in their desperate struggle to put food on the table. In both of these situations, the child’s education suffers, which often leads to continued poverty as the child enters adulthood.

Poverty and education are inextricably linked. Though education can be critical to overcoming poverty, poverty often hinders a child from gaining a proper education. According to UNICEF, “Children who grow up impoverished suffer from poor living standards, develop fewer skills for the workforce, and earn lower wages as adults.”4 With limited job opportunities, these adults often perpetuate the poverty of their childhoods on to their children and the cycle continues.

Another issue of poverty is in the area of health. According to The World Counts, an organization that raises awareness of important global challenges, “Hunger, lack of sanitation and access to clean water and lack of resources for proper health care are the main reasons” that thousands of children die every day.5 These reasons all stem from poverty.

For example, many poor families lack proper nutrition, which affects one’s overall health. Improper nutrition leaves individuals and their immune systems weak, affecting adults’ ability to work and children’s ability to grow, both physically and cognitively.6 In turn, “Adults who were stunted as children earn, on average, 22 percent less than those who weren’t stunted,” according to Reliefweb.7

Many of the world’s poor suffer from illnesses that are preventable. In developing countries, approximately 80 percent of illnesses can be attributed to unclean water and poor sanitation.8 Worldwide, 1.1 billion people lack access to clean water that’s safe to drink.9 Many people in developing countries rely on surface water, which is frequently contaminated and leads to a host of waterborne diseases, including typhoid, polio, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Meanwhile, 2 billion people lack basic sanitation facilities, which also contributes to health issues.10

When adults are sick, they can’t work. For individuals such as daily wage laborers, that means they can’t earn an income or provide for their families.

The lack of proper health care can also contribute to poverty. In rural areas of developing countries, health care facilities may not even be available. If they are accessible, often impoverished families can’t afford treatment, so they must choose between going into debt—further entrenching themselves in poverty—or leaving illnesses untreated.11

“At least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services,” said a joint report from World Bank and World Health Organization. “And each year, large numbers of households are being pushed into poverty because they must pay for health care out of their own pockets.”12

These are just a few examples of what causes poverty. Other causes include natural disasters, various forms of discrimination, conflicts such as war and other violence, instability and lack of reserves. Frequently, it’s not a single factor alone that causes poverty but a combination of various, often inter-related, factors.

GFA World offers multi-faceted solutions to end poverty and address the various root causes of poverty.

Serving the “least of these” since 1979, GFA World offers community development programs that provide bridges out of poverty, tangibly showing Christ’s love, to those in need in places such as Asia and Africa. GFA national missionaries live among the communities they serve and are attuned to the unique needs within each community.

For areas in need of clean water, GFA World provides clean water initiatives such as Jesus Wells and BioSand water filters.

For areas in need of health care, GFA World provides free medical camps as well as various health awareness programs.

To help the next generation break the mindset and cycle of poverty, GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program offers children educational and practical assistance while instilling in them positive values and hope. This program gives children a solid foundation for their futures and empowers them, their families, and their communities to improve their lives.

When disaster strikes, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, GFA missionaries offer immediate and long-term assistance to help families recover rather than fall further into poverty. GFA World also offers literacy programs, vocational training and income-generating gifts to empower impoverished adults to earn a sustainable income and break out of poverty.

Done in the name and love of Christ, these efforts are helping transform lives and communities in need.

Learn more about possible solutions to poverty in areas such as Asia and Africa »

1 “Poverty.” The World Bank. Accessed August 5, 2021.
2 Matthews, Kayla. “What Is Poverty Mindset and How to Get out of Poverty Mentality?” May 7, 2020.
3 Heshmat, Shahram, Ph.D. “The Scarcity Mindset: How does being poor change the way we feel and think?” Psychology Today. April 2, 2015.
4 “Child poverty.” UNICEF. Accessed October 18, 2021.
5 “What’s it like to be really poor?” The World Counts. Accessed October 19, 2021.
6 “11 Top Causes of Global Poverty.” Reliefweb. March 4, 2020.
7 “11 Top Causes of Global Poverty.” Reliefweb. March 4, 2020.
8 “10 Ways Access to Clean Water Can Improve the World.” Ohio University. Accessed October 28, 2021.
9 “Water Supply & Sanitation.” World Water Council. Accessed August 11, 2021.
10 “Sanitation.” World Health Organization. June 14, 2019.
11 Walthouse, Emily. “Effects of Hunger on Education.” The Borgen Project. Accessed August 19, 2021.
12 “World Bank and WHO: Half of the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses.” December 13, 2017.