What Are the Causes of Poverty?

What Are the Causes of Poverty, and How Does GFA World Help?

The question “What are the causes of poverty?” may seem simple, but it has many answers. In fact, most cases of poverty are caused by a combination of factors,[1] so solving the problem of poverty must also be a multifaceted effort.

The global poverty line is considered living on $2.15 or less per day.[2] This seems incomprehensibly small, but about 719 million people around the world live below this extreme poverty line.[3] That is about 10 percent of the global population. While that number has been shrinking, events of recent years—diseases and conflicts—have hindered further progress in ending poverty.[4] Poverty is present all over the world, but it is especially concentrated in Africa and Asia. Nineteen of the twenty poorest countries on the planet are in Africa.[5]

With so many people struggling to survive below the $2.15 a day line, answering what are the major causes of poverty? could help in continuing to fight the problem.

A very simplified explanation is that poverty causes more poverty. Chronic poverty is partially the result of a vicious cycle where people born into poverty stay there for generations.[6] 

A person living in poverty has fewer opportunities. They have less education because they must work to help the family eat and poorer health as they generally can’t afford healthcare. This all leads to lower income, which means more work and even less chance to rise above the line. When that person has kids, they must raise them in the same poor state since they can’t afford anything else, and the cycle continues.

There are many other contributing factors that answer the question, “What are the causes of poverty?” Innate inequality—gender, ability, health, ethnicity and age—contributes to the poor status of millions. Conflict can lead to poverty as well since war-torn regions have their infrastructure destroyed. For example, the poverty rate in Syria has gone from less than 10 percent to over 80 percent since fighting broke out in 2011.[7]

Poverty both causes and is caused by hunger. If a person doesn’t get enough food, they will lack the strength needed for labor. Malnutrition can weaken the immune system, leading to illness and preventing work. Not only that, but malnutrition can stunt the growth of children, even in the womb, since mothers who are malnourished during pregnancy are not able to nourish their developing babies. Adults who were stunted as children earn, on average, 22 percent less than those who weren’t stunted. In Ethiopia alone, stunting contributes to GDP losses as high as 16 percent.[8]

These and more are among what are the most recognized causes of poverty. Continuing this exploration of poverty reveals that education plays a major role. Not every uneducated person is destined to live in poverty, but most impoverished adults did not receive a proper education.[9] 

UNICEF estimates that as many as 356 million children are living in extreme poverty.[10] For these millions of children, school is often out of reach. Whether it is the distance, the cost, or the lack of encouragement which form the obstacle, many will receive very little education, if any at all. Living hand to mouth kills dreams.[11] These communities are focused on surviving, so education takes a back seat, leading to another round in the poverty cycle. This reality is made even more tragic by the fact that each year of primary school could increase a child’s future earnings by 10 percent.[12]

Clearly, there are many problems that contribute to poverty around the world, and organizations like GFA World are working to address them and ease the burden. GFA’s ministries seek to acknowledge and counteract what are the main causes of poverty. One effective solution is the gift of animals to those living in destitution. In the ancient world of the Bible, animals were seen as a sign of wealth.[13] The great thing about animals is that even the poorest of the poor can own them, and by giving a family a pair of chickens, goats, sheep or a cow, brand-new opportunities arise. The eggs and milk can be eaten to enhance sparse diets and stave off malnutrition. Animals, like all living things, reproduce, so the offspring can be sold or eaten as well. These animals provide a real long-term solution where families and communities are given hope for a better future as they are lifted out of poverty.[14]

Another poverty-fighting ministry is GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program, which strives to educate children in some of the poorest places in the world. Through sponsorship, children can learn how to read as well as receive essentials such as nutritious food, healthcare, and hygiene training through the program, breaking the poverty and illiteracy cycles. So far, 125,000 children, and thus their families, have benefited from this opportunity, and GFA seeks to reach many more with this practical help and God’s love.

Consider partnering with GFA World to combat global poverty. The simple gift of some chickens or sponsorship through the Child Sponsorship Program makes a world of difference by answering and combatting the age-old query, “What are the causes of poverty?” It doesn’t take much to provide these life-changing gifts and opportunities. Poverty can end; but it takes some outside help.

Learn more about the 5 ways to reduce poverty

[1] “The Top 11 Causes of Poverty Around the World.” Concern Worldwide US. February 3, 2022. https://concernusa.org/news/causes-of-poverty/.
[2] “Extreme poverty, 2015-2022.” The World Bank. Accessed June 30, 2023. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty.
[3] “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2018: Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle.” The World Bank. 2018. https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/poverty-and-shared-prosperity.
[4] “The Top 11 Causes of Poverty Around the World.” Concern Worldwide US. February 3, 2022. https://concernusa.org/news/causes-of-poverty/.
[5] Mala, Alisa. “The 15 poorest countries in the world.” World Atlas. January 10, 2023. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-poorest-countries-in-the-world.html.
[6] “The Vicious Cycle of Poverty Explained.” 2023. Concern Worldwide. June 19, 2023. https://www.concern.org.uk/news/vicious-cycle-poverty-explained?ssp=1&setlang=en-PH&safesearch=moderate.
[7] “Overview.” n.d. World Bank. Accessed July 31, 2023. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/syria/overview?ssp=1&setlang=en-PH&safesearch=moderate.
[8] “The Top 11 Causes of Poverty Around the World.” Concern Worldwide US. February 3, 2022. https://concernusa.org/news/causes-of-poverty/.
[9] “The Top 11 Causes of Poverty Around the World.” Concern Worldwide US. February 3, 2022. https://concernusa.org/news/causes-of-poverty/.
[10] “Child Poverty.” UNICEF. Accessed June 16, 2023. https://www.unicef.org/social-policy/child-poverty.
[11] Psarris, Emily. “Solutions to Poverty-Line Problems of the Poor & Impoverished.” GFA World. November 15, 2018. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/solutions-extreme-poverty-line-poor-impoverished/#poverty-line-solutions.
[12] “Media Brochure.” Pencils of Promise. Accessed July 2023. https://pencilsofpromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/PoP-Media-Brochure-2011-v21.pdf
[13] Genesis 13:2; Genesis 24:35; Genesis 13b–14a
[14] Holt, Palmer. “A surprising antidote to world poverty: Farm animals.” GFA World. November 30, 2021. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/solutions-poverty-farm-animals/.