Poverty Mindset

The Poverty Mindset and Possible Solutions

A poverty mindset is a momentous obstacle to overcome in breaking the cycle of poverty. The mind is a powerful thing; one’s thoughts often determine the direction and outcome of that person’s life. When a certain mindset is passed down from previous generations in a child’s development, it can become ingrained in their very psyche.

Consider this: If a person’s parents and grandparents before them were impoverished, barely scraping together enough to survive, why should life be any different for them? Why should they hope for any better?

This is particularly true in developing regions such as Asia and Africa. Stuck in a cycle of generational poverty, it may not even occur to individuals to dream for a better life, let alone plan for or invest in such possibilities. Their poverty mindset may lead them to accept their struggle for survival as their only option in life, believing that the way things are now is how they will remain.1 They may never even wonder how to break the cycle of poverty.

Parents often pass on this poverty mentality to their children, perpetuating the cycle. Scarcity tends to create a myopic focus on the present need, causing one to “overvalue immediate benefits at the expense of future ones.”2 Out of necessity, impoverished parents commonly focus on the immediate need of putting food on the table, sometimes keeping children out of school to contribute to the family income, not realizing they’re sacrificing their children’s futures in the long term.

These parents may simply not have the funds to invest in their children’s education. With 736 million people living below the poverty line, making $1.90 a day or less,3 these families often need every cent of income for food and shelter. They live as if poverty is the only option because—for them—it is.

But GFA World, committed to serving the “least of these” since 1979, is helping impoverished people in Asia and Africa break out of this poverty mindset in a variety of ways.

GFA’s child sponsorship program alleviates a family’s financial burden and invests in the future of their children through education and other practical help.

Sumana dropped out of school and worked hard to ensure her younger sister Sai could stay in school. But when the sisters still struggled, Sumana began to despair, wondering if they were just destined to be poor, with no hope for a better future. But then Sai joined GFA’s child sponsorship program, which became the community support they needed for her to succeed. Suddenly, the future was wide open with possibilities.4

Many impoverished adults in the areas where GFA World serves grew up poor and couldn’t attend or complete school as children. Their lack of education limits job opportunities, and their illiteracy may cause shame. GFA’s literacy programs offer these adults a chance to learn how to read and write, enabling them to read signs and contracts, as well as perform basic math, preventing them from being cheated in the market. These new skills have the power to alter individuals’ outlook on life. For Gaetane, 45, finally learning to read caused her confidence to soar, transforming her self-image, and enabled her to continually renew her mind through the Holy Scriptures, which she could now read for herself.5

GFA World also distributes income-generating gifts that empower people in need to earn a sustainable income, so they don’t have to live hand to mouth.

With basic needs met, families can dare to dream. They can invest in their children’s future. They can change their entire mindset and the values they pass on to their children. They can start breaking the cycle of poverty.

Leena’s dreams didn’t extend beyond simply feeding her children, but she and her husband lacked the resources to provide three nourishing meals a day. Then she received vocational training and a sewing machine from GFA workers; hope sparked with the gift of these newfound skills. Different dreams began to shape in her mind—dreams to own her own business, get her family out of poverty and improve her children’s quality of life—and she developed the confidence to achieve those dreams.6

These are just a few examples of how GFA World is helping enact change for those entrenched in a poverty mentality through the tangible love of Christ. Lives, and mindsets, are being transformed as a result.

Learn how to sponsor a child and provide help that transforms entire communities »

Learn how a global poverty mindset can be overcome with ideas and values »

1 Matthews, Kayla. “What Is Poverty Mindset and How to Get out of Poverty Mentality?” https://catalystforbusiness.com/what-is-poverty-mindset-and-how-to-get-out-of-poverty-mentality/. May 7, 2020.
2 Heshmat, Shahram, Ph.D. “The Scarcity Mindset: How does being poor change the way we feel and think?” Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201504/the-scarcity-mindset. April 2, 2015.
3 “Poverty.” The World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview. Accessed August 5, 2021.
4 “Chasing Education for Her Sister’s Future.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/chasing-education-for-her-sisters-future-wfr20-10/. October 2020.
5 “Literacy Class Builds Woman’s Confidence, Faith.” GFA World. https://gospelforasia-reports.org/2021/07/literacy-class-builds-womans-confidence-faith/. July 29, 2021.
6 Overcoming Poverty: A Dream to Feed Her Children.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/overcoming-poverty-a-dream-to-feed-her-children-wfr21-05/. Accessed August 5, 2021.