Causes of Poverty

In, The Position of Poverty, John Galbraith categorizes poverty into two but fails to provide the cause of the individual types of poverty: insular and case poverty (Galbraith, pp 235). Poverty is a social condition in which the people affected cannot meet their basic needs of shelter, food and clothing. Case poverty is particularly interesting since it is caused by factors that are without the control of the poor people. This essay finds the cause of case poverty to include: (1) overpopulation, (2) unequal resource distribution, (3) lack of education, (4) environmental degradation, (5) natural disasters, and (6) corruption. These causes cannot be singled out as the only causes of poverty and neither can they be deemed to act in isolation. In fact, most of these factors act in combination with others to lead to the detrimental state of poverty. The causes of case poverty are beyond the control of the individual citizens.

Overpopulation is the situation in which large numbers of people are concentrated in a limited space with few resources. It therefore results from either high population densities, low amounts of resources or in some cases both. A high population has the direct effect of pressuring the available resources and decreasing the ratio of resources to people. Bangladesh, for instance, has a population density of 1,147 people per square kilometer making it the highest in the world (Merino, pp 52). Such volumes of people result in the reduction of the resources available to the people in the country or even the people with access to these resources. High birth rates also increase the rate of population in a country and in effect lead to poverty. It has been observed that high birth rates in developing countries lead to higher poverty levels since the households and economies cannot sustain many people. The people born are considered as mouths to feed and not hands to provide labor. The lack of enough resources and the limited access deprive the people of the ability to prosper and thus render them poor.

In most developing countries, the aspect of poor and unequal distribution of resources has rendered efforts to curb poverty futile. In this respect, resources include the necessary raw materials and the knowledge and expertise of converting these materials into valuable assets. The importance of resources in development cannot be undermined because it is only through the resources that the people can acquire value. The lack of these resources lead to the poor countries trading with developed countries to acquire the resources, and endeavor they cannot sustain for long. In these situations, even the seemingly well off people are strangled by relative poverty especially going by the standards of the developed world (Galbraith, pp 49). People in these situations therefore end up committing most of their resources to buying food leaving most of the other necessary services unaffordable.

Illiteracy and lower education levels are common factors in the extension of poverty. Studies have shown that most of the developed countries have wallowed out of poverty through investments in the education sector. Even when there is formal education in the developing countries, the quality of the education is too low to bring any meaningful developments in the innovation field. For instance, only about 60 % of the children in Sub Saharan African have access to quality education (Ahmed, pp. 68), although the gap has been reduced in recent years. The lack of employment opportunities may also motivate many children not to go to schools and prefer to start small self supporting businesses. Research has shown that most of the poor regions in the world have the least literacy levels. For instance, Yemen has an illiteracy level of 47% leading to a poverty index of almost 70%. The lack of education means that the majority of the population cannot find employment to support their livelihoods thus leading to poverty (Merino, pp 107).

The deterioration of the natural environment is a leading cause of large scale poverty. Environmental degradation may include depletion of the atmosphere, hydrosphere as well as the lithosphere. The effect of degradation is the unveiling of shortages of basic needs including food, shelter and clean water. People with no access to basic needs cannot be productive even if all other materials are availed to them. As water bodies, forests and air become degraded, people living in these areas suffer the most effects including diseases. Most of the regions in developing countries, for example, depend on natural resources for life sustenance and the degradation of the same spells doom for the people. The degradation of these resources may pollute them and make them unfit for human utilization. The continued use of the same may lead to deaths on a large scale as diseases spread from one area to the next.

The vulnerability of a community to natural disasters is also a facilitator of poverty among the people. The effect of catastrophic natural disasters is felt on a larger scale in regions of the world that are already less wealthy. The earthquake in Haiti in 2005 is a leading example of how natural disasters can lead to widespread poverty. In Haiti and in other vulnerable areas, the natural disasters rendered most of the people as refugees in their own country depriving them of necessary needs for their sustenance. Another example is the recurrent drought in the Horn of Africa which has the effect of impoverishing the people in the region for many years. According to a World Bank report, the debt implication on small-scale fishermen had increased two-fold one year after cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar. In 2007, the tsunami and earthquake that hit Solomon Islands also brought damages of about 95% of the national budget (Ahmed, pp 93).

Corruption is another cause of case poverty especially in the developing world where resources are limited. Corruption inhibits development, both social and economic, when elected leaders steal money that would have otherwise spurred development projects to help the common citizens. The effect of corruption is the heavy cost placed on the society. In addition, the effect of corruption is mainly felt by the poor who depend on government programs for their sustenance. Corruption is mainly occasioned by the poor governance in a country and the lack of accountability to the people. Moreover, widespread corruption attracts sanctions against the affected countries thereby depriving the country of trade partners and worsening the situation.

Although the causes of case poverty are without the control of the individual citizens, governments can eradicate or at least reduce the corruption. Most of the causes are either due to poor governance or lack of preparedness of resilience on the people’s part. The solution to case poverty is dependent on a government’s program to cushion the people from natural disasters and occurrences (Merino, pp 187). The world governments have a duty of ensuring that people have access to at least the basic needs. Although the elimination of relative is almost impossible to eliminate, case poverty can be reduced to acceptable levels.


Works cited

Galbraith, John Kenneth. “The Position of Poverty.” The Affluent Society. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. 234-242. Print.

Merino, Noe. Poverty. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2012. Print.

Galbraith, John K. The Nature of Mass Poverty. Bridgewater, NJ: Replica Books, 2000. Print.

Ahmed, Akhter U. The World’s Most Deprived: Characteristics and Causes of Extreme Poverty and Hunger. Washington, D.C: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2007. Print. (from page 58)

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