Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Poverty can be categorized into absolute and relative poverty. Relative poverty encompasses a situation where people lack access to the minimum income level that would guarantee that they attain average living standards as defined by the relevant society in which they come from. Absolute poverty on the other hand, is where individuals are deprived basic needs ranging from food, clean water, sanitation, clothing, shelter and health among others. Here, income is not the only factor, but also the access to various services. For some time now, it has become apparent that people living in poverty have continued with the trend for a long period. This is where poverty is prevalent in a certain family for more than one generation. This has resulted to development of the cycle of poverty.

Poverty tends to begin at childhood when a child is born in a poor family by a malnourished mother. Once born in these families, the children are entangled in the cycle of poverty, which might become difficult to break (Martin). This is because such children find it difficult to gain a good education, something that limits them in the job market once they become adults. Access to other services like health also becomes a problem. This situation is likely to continue with their children and grandchildren since the people that came before them did not put a foundation upon which they could build their lives. However, the cycle of poverty can be broken. For this to happen there needs to be an external intervention. This would mean interventions from institutions like the government, NGOs, well-wishers just to mention a few. The strategies adopted should be holistic in order to ensure that the desired results have been attained.

Semuels (1) provides a solution of how to break the cycle of poverty. The approach that she promotes involves a two-generation program focus. The program focuses on improving employment opportunities for parents and improving children’s education at the same time. She arrived at this approach after the assessment of Atlanta neighborhoods. Most of the people hear grew poor and their children seem to be following in similar footsteps. It is more of a vicious cycle of poverty. Lack of quality education has been cited among the main contributors to this aspect. That is why children that are born in poverty are likely to remain stagnant.  High quality preschool seems to give children a better foundation, but it expensive for most parents to afford (Semuels 1). The approach is regarded as “two-generation” since it helps children access this type of education while helping parents get better jobs. Semuels gives the example of the Dunbar Learning Complex; a foundation that has instituted this approach and it seems to work positively. Currently the foundation is receiving numerous applications based on the results that people are seeing.

The two-generation approach actually seems quite unique with regards to eradication of the cycle of poverty. Helping both the parents and children overcome problems that are prevalent in their day to day activities can be viewed as a wholesome approach. This is because if the approach focused on one side and neglected the other, the prospects of success would be minimal. It is difficult for a parent to undertake employment if they can’t find a favorable day care for their child.


There is another intriguing approach that has been upheld by Amelia Gentleman. His main focus is on preventing poor children from becoming poor while they are adults. Gentleman (1) talks about a review that was going to be presented to the education secretary by Frank Field. The idea that has been presented on how to eradicate the cycle of poverty is by giving children parenting classes while in school. Field believes that being a parent is among the most important things that an individual can do. However, there is always an assumption that people will acquire the desired parenting skills through osmosis since nothing is being taught at school that revolves around the issue. He also asserts that children end up defining their paths based on how they are brought up. Poor parenting skills and neglect have contributed to the vicious cycle of poverty since most people did not acquire favorable upbringing to help them make it in life.

This approach tackles an aspect that seems quite obvious, but it has been neglected completely. Parenting is not entirely an easy task as it may seem. How children come to develop, is highly determined by their upbringing. If children are brought up in a way that manifests or encourages poverty, they will end up being poor in their adult life. As a result, it is good when people learn parenting skills as early as possible. By the time they have families, they will have an idea of how to make sure that their children have the best upbringing, and are instilled with ideals that do not promote the vicious cycle of poverty.


Heller (1) has proposed the concept of affordable housing as a way of eradicating the cycle of poverty. She has used New York as an example while exploring this concept.  According to her, the homeless shelter system has played a part in enhancing the cycle of poverty. The system is just growing, but it is not serving its intended purpose due to lack of affordable housing in the city. There is no existence of a favorable exit strategy from the system. Provision of a rental subsidy is deemed as a good idea for people that might need emergency shelter in future (Heller). There are families that have been in these shelters for a long time. This includes families with people that lived in foster care as children, people with mental health issues, people that have been in prison among others. Such people need intensive help for them to have the ability of breaking the cycle of poverty. This might come in terms of long-term housing assistance, but not through the homeless shelter system.

This approach views the aspect of poverty from a perspective that is not very common. Housing is an issue that is normally ignored when issues related to poverty are being discussed. There is no way people can break the cycle of poverty if they have not actualized their housing needs. That is why it is important for state and city officials to develop a subsidy that takes into account the diverse people/families that are in shelters. The solutions being devised should not be “one size fits all”. Everybody should be as an individual with different needs hence requiring a solution that meets his/her needs.

            Education can also be used as a favorable way of breaking the cycle of poverty. A college degree has become important for people to attain meaningful employment. However, college is not affordable to millions of young people based on their families’ financial status (Martin). This aspect has resulted to long-lasting national dialogues about college education. More focus has been on access and affordability. However, Martin (1) thinks that the real issue should be the abysmal completion rate, more so for students that are facing long odds. He postulates that there is need for comprehensive programs that would enable promising students to beat the odds and become role models and dynamic contributors. Martin has also outlined a comprehensive solution that would enable the less fortunate students to acquire education and break the cycle of poverty in the process. This includes the Students Rising Above (SRA), which is an award-winning nonprofit initiative. SRA has demonstrated that when competent students attain financial support, guidance through college and training upon graduation they will have the ability to attain full potential. The program selects first-generation students from low-income families and provides them with the necessary resources for university or college. This way, the students have acquired education and attained favorable employment that would help break the cycle of poverty in their families.

Education being the ‘key to success’ is something that everyone has heard at some point in their life. There is truth in that statement. A good look at the top executives in Fortune 500 companies and other organizations can shed the light on this issue. The people occupying the top positions are usually educated. The knowledge grasped through education has contributed significantly to their being there. This means that if children from poor families are enabled to access quality education, there would be a very high probability of breaking the cycle of poverty.

In conclusion, the cycle of poverty has been there for some time, and has affected some families for several generations. There is need for external intervention in order to break the cycle of poverty entirely. Among the ways that can be used is the two-generation approach that puts the focus on both parents and children. Teaching parenting concepts in school might also help since parents will learn ways of raising their children in a manner that they can break the ceiling of poverty bestowed upon them. Emphasizing on quality education and making it accessible to children coming from poor families will also help break the cycle of poverty. The skills learnt in school can be used for generation of income in adult life.


Works Cited

Gentleman, Amelia. “Children Need Parenting Classes to Break Poverty Cycle – Frank Field.”      The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 May 2016.

Heller, Anne. “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty and Homelessness.” The New York Times. The        New York Times, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 May 2016.

Martin, Lynne. “Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education and Job Training.” The            Huffington Post., 24 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

Semuels, Alana. “A Different Approach to Breaking the Cycle of Poverty.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 24 Dec. 2014. Web. 02 May 2016.


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