What Is the Cause of Poverty?

When answering, “What is the cause of poverty?” it is essential to remember that there is not one factor or deficiency that leads to people living in the most desperate situations.

However, there are some common factors in many impoverished areas:

Lack of EducationHow can lack of education cause poverty? Without consistent educational opportunities, children and adults are often stuck in the generational cycle of poverty. When a person doesn’t have basic reading, writing and math skills, they are often stuck in day-labor positions, and many of those do not meet the basic financial needs of a family. When we study how lack of education causes poverty, we see that it also impacts the next generation. Data gives good cause to believe that learning to read and write is one of the “great miracle cures.”[1]

Lack of Healthcare – Chronic disease still plagues much of the impoverished world. For example, a waterborne illness like typhoid can cause mass illness in an entire community. Malaria and diarrhea are common illnesses that, when basic medical care is available, are often treated successfully. Without medical care, however, these illnesses can cause death. Clean water wells and sanitation facilities are also key to good health in a community, but they are often lacking in poorer neighborhoods.

Lack of Environmental Stability – Natural disasters and war cause vulnerability in a society long term. For example, if an earthquake hits a village and it cannot adequately recover, the impact of that earthquake will be felt for generations; the residents will be susceptible to long-term problems. Regions that often sustain natural disasters and political upheaval are known as “fragile and conflict-affected countries” (FCS) and are some of the most difficult places to fight poverty. These include South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, chronically poor areas.[2]

Lack of Financial Opportunity or Assistance – In some areas of extreme poverty, a person can learn to read and write but still lack the opportunity to gain a higher-paying job. There simply aren’t opportunities to use his or her skills. They may want to start a business, but there is no one to loan them money to get started.

What is the cause of poverty? Let’s look at a real-life example:

Losing the family breadwinner and having no means of earning an income. Myla was trying to accept her new reality. Her husband was gone after suffering a heart attack. She was now a single mom with two young kids. How would she survive without any family nearby and in a culture where she was expected to stay home. Her neighbors even claimed she had eaten her husband. They loathed her. She grieved her husband and her new reality—a hopeless one. Through it all, she clung to her faith, praying to God for help.

She remembered Psalm 68:5 where God promises to be a “father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.” Sure enough, a GFA World missionary named Hinda learned of Myla’s plight and asked God for a way to help. Hinda arranged for Myla and her kids to receive a pregnant goat. “Because I have this goat, I am able to move further in life,” Myla said. “I have a hope that I will be able to multiply this goat, and through it, I will be able to provide [for] my children’s needs.”

This one goat was key to unlocking hope! How? Myla could use the manure on her garden, and its offspring would provide food for Myla’s family or be sold in the market. As the goats multiplied, she would soon have a small herd. The milk will provide sustenance for Myla’s family or be sold.

Through this one gift, Myla found hope for her future, knowing her children would be fed. Myla was thankful for God’s provision for her need.[3] Gifts of animals can lift a huge burden off a family living in poverty. They can empower families to break the cycle of poverty and gain financial stability.

At GFA World, we have been answering the question, What is the cause of poverty? and helping people find solutions for decades. Our passion is to tangibly help families in the neediest areas—often in South Asian and African villages where no other organizations are serving. We assess needs and see what resources will help a family break out of the cycle of poverty and become financially stable.

How is lack of education a cause of poverty? GFA knows that a key factor for breaking the bonds of poverty is keeping kids in school. We also share the love of Jesus with those we serve and give hope to the hurting. We believe it is through that love that true eternal hope is found.

Will you join us in sharing resources and hope with those who need them most? Just like for Myla, a gift of one goat can change the trajectory of a family for generations. A family can go from hungry to hopeful when they don’t have to worry about tomorrow’s needs. Help send a goat to someone today. They will be forever grateful.

Learn more about what is the cycle of poverty

[1] Mains, Karen Burton. “Literacy: One of the great miracle cures. GFA Special Report. September 3, 2019. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/literacy-miracle-cure-illiteracy.
[2] Burt, Alison; Hughes, Barry; and Milante, Gary. “Eradicating poverty in fragile states; Prospects of reaching the ‘high-hanging’ fruit by 2030.” World Bank Group. August 2014. https://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/909761468170347362/pdf/WPS7002.pdf.
[3] “A Kid to Feed a Widow’s Kids.” GFA World. December 2022. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/a-kid-to-feed-a-windows-kids-wfr22-13/.