Poverty is a subjective and comparative term describing a lack of sufficient wealth (usually understood as capital, money, material goods, or resources especially natural resources) to live what is understood in a society as a "normal" life: for instance, to be capable of raising a healthy family, and especially educating children and participating in society. A person living in this condition of poverty is said to be poor. The meaning of "sufficient" varies widely across the different political and economic areas of the world.
Poverty is essentially the collective condition of poor people, or of poor groups, and in this sense entire nation-states are sometimes regarded as poor. To avoid stigma these are usually called developing nations.
Poverty is often strongly correlated with social problems, such as crime and disease (notably sexually transmitted diseases), sometimes in epidemic form. As a result, many societies employ social workers to fight poverty by a variety of methods which range from moral persuasion to financial subsidy to physical coercion.
There is evidence of poverty in every region. In developed countries, this condition results in wandering homeless people and poor suburbs (with so-called bidonvilles or favelas) in which poor people are - more or less - restricted to a ghetto.
The condition in itself is not always considered negatively, even if this is the prevalent interpretation: some cultural or religious groups consider poverty an ideal condition to live in, a condition necessary in order to reach certain spiritual or intellectual states. A notable example is that of the Christian Franciscan order. This is called voluntary simplicity, of which voluntary poverty is an extreme form.
Poverty is studied by many social, scientific and cultural disciplines.
Related debates on a states' human capital and a person's individual capital tend likewise to focus on access to the instructional capital and social capital available only to those educated in such formal systems.
- In economics, two kinds of poverty are considered: relative and absolute.
- In politics, the fight against poverty is usually regarded as a social goal and most governments have - secondarily at least - some dedicated institutions or departments. The work done by these bodies is mostly limited to census studies and identification of some income level below which a citizen is technically considered poor. Active interventions may include housing plans, social pensions, special job opportunities, or requirements. Some ideologies (such as Marxism) argue that the economists and politicians actively work to create poverty. Other theories consider poverty a sign of a failing economic system and one of the main causes of crime.
- In law, poverty is recognised, in most developed countries, as a mitigating factor for the determination of the punishment, being usually considered coincident with a generic and permanent state of need which can affect and alter the correct capability of clearly or freely identifying the legally and socially acceptable behaviour. Poverty is generally argued to cause increased crime rates amongst the poor by increasing their stress.
- In education, poverty affects a student's ability to effectively profit from the learning environments. Especially for younger students coming from poverty, their primary needs as described in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; the need for a safe and stable homes, clothes on their backs, and regular meals clouds a student's ability to learn. Furthermore, in education circles there is a term used to characterize the phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poorer getting poorer (as it relates to education but easily transfers to poverty in general) is the Matthew Effect.
Causes of Poverty
Poverty is a highly political issue. People with right wing views often see it as related to laziness, and a lack of Family planning. People with left wing views see it more in terms of Social Justice and lack of opportunity in Education. It is a highly complex issue in which various factors often play a part.
Although it is widely thought that poverty is a result of laziness, as well as unemployment, the United States (presumably the wealthiest nation in the world) has millions of what must be considered the working poor; that is - persons not on welfare or immediate public assistance plans, that due either to the capitalist economic system, or to other factors, who are completely unable to rise above poverty, despite frequent efforts to the contrary.
Many societies at various times have tried to eliminate poverty, through numerous measures including education, industrialization, and through forms of social welfare. A true solution has remained elusive.
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The Institute on Race & Poverty
University of Minnesota (USA).
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
A national non-profit organization which seeks to improve the economic security of low-income families with children and secure access for low-income persons to the civil justice system.
Poverty and Race Research Action Council
PRRAC fosters and supports collaborations among researchers and advocates effectively addressing problems faced by people living at the intersection of poverty and race.
Cornell University: Poverty, Inequality and Development
Research papers and other materials on poverty from Cornell University faculty and graduate students.
World Bank PovertyNet
Information about poverty, its assessment, its impacts, and initiatives to reduce poverty internationally. Includes a special collection of the "literature of poverty."
A UN-sponsored combination of the Internet, television, radio, and live events with world-class artists designed to fight extreme poverty.
ATD Fourth World
An international non-governmental organisation dedicated to overcoming extreme poverty.
Action Against Poverty
Learn from National speaker and author, Dr. Ruby Payne, about the Hidden Rules. Discussion about children in poverty, the generational ramifications and what the community can do to help.
Children Helping Children
Promotes the needs of the young in third world by raising money to educate and house them, plus give them a purpose in life.
State Policy Documentation Project (SPDP)
Tracks policy choices on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance programs and Medicaid in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A joint project of the Center for Law and Social Policy and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
CIDA - Poverty Reduction
Seeks to stimulate dialogue and learning among a wide range of development actors - international organizations, governments, NGOs, the private sector, and academia - about what poverty reduction means to them and their poverty reduction experiences and lessons learned.
Poverty Relief, Human Rights and Peace
List of links on a variety of subjects.
Information about welfare and housing laws and resources in British Columbia, Canada. Provides links to other anti-poverty organizations and resources in Canada and internationally.
An independent, nonprofit institute dedicated to developing effective, sustainable, and locally based solutions to global poverty, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Articles, case studies, maps, and graphics on the issues of poverty, food security, and the environment.
Cochabamba - Equipo Bolivia Service Trip
A trip in service to Cochabamba, Bolivia to aid the poor children of the street in this impoverished city.
Fighting Poverty, One Business at a Time.
The Trickle Up Program is an international non-profit organization dedicated to reducing poverty by providing low-income people around the world with the opportunity to create their own micro-enterprises.
Coalition on Human Needs
CHN is an alliance of national organizations working together to promote public policies which address the needs of low-income and other vulnerable populations.
An on-line news service dedicated to providing in-depth coverage of issues affecting low and no income communities nationally and internationally.
Public Private Ventures
A national nonprofit devoted to youth development, mentoring, youth violence reduction, faith-based programs, national service and volunteering, and workforce development.
High Wycombe Results
Results is a British organization whose aim is to generate the political will to end hunger and poverty by lobbying MPs, letter-writing and media work.
Almanac of Policy Issues: Social Welfare
Comprehensive links and background information on poverty, hunger, welfare, homelessness, housing, seniors issues, and other social welfare issues.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Background information and links on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and other low-income energy issues. From the Almanac of Policy Issues.
Synergos University for a Night 1999
Archived proceedings of the May 27, 1999 conference discussing plans to reduce global poverty. Lists sponsors, recommendations, excerpts from the plenary session, and possible future events.
ActionAid is one of the UK's largest development charities which works with over five million of the world's poorest people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean to help eradicate poverty.
"Poverty" A Subject
Measures controlling poverty linked to the suitability of the country, as reasons of poverty changes due to social conditions of the country.
Personal page with resources and support for people who work to understand and prevent poverty. News, definitions, measurement methodology, facts, bibliography, related links, and guest book.
Institute for Research on Poverty
Information about the institute, explanations of poverty measures, research, and links. One of two national poverty research centers designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
University of the Poor
Affiliated with the Economic Human Rights Campaign, which documents economic human rights abuses across the United States.
Center for Impact Research
Chicago, Illinois based nonprofit group working to end violence and poverty. Includes publications, newsletter, conferences, policy centers and mailing list.
Global Thinker - Economic Injustice Around the World
Small collection of links regarding globalization and poverty.
Combat Poverty Agency (Ireland)
State agency working for the prevention and elimination of poverty and social exclusion in Ireland. It is a small organization set up under the Combat Poverty Agency Act 1986.
2010: Poverty Elimination
Proposes a nine-step poverty elimination plan.
Global Truth and Reconciliation 911
Aims to help the impoverished in the world by raising awareness among the more affluent, reducing demand for unnneeded goods, and rechanneling aid to help the poor help themselves.