Why Is There so Much Poverty?

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With the thought of poverty, several issues come to mind: money, crime, health and welfare. These are the top four concerns when responding to the issue of poverty in our nation as a whole. Each presents problems and solutions, but addressing them in the face of government is difficult; for every good point or action, there is a negative reaction affecting both pro and con supporters.

The most prevalent means of measuring poverty have been, and continue to be, bench marks related to money. Poverty lines are used to measure absolute and relative poverty in terms of incomes and affordability. Such measurements are relatively easy to make and quantify. However, lack of money is more a symptom of poverty rather than its cause. In most cases the poor are not without some income. What they lack is the ability to accumulate assets, which is a key ingredient to the creation of wealth and breaking the cycle of poverty (6).

In addition to low earnings, the prime reason for the inability to increase funds and thus increase security of income is that profits or potential savings are often pocketed by moneylenders who charge lofty interest rates, by formal and informal regulatory and enforcement agents/organizations who demand bribes or extort protection money, and by middlemen or other stronger business partners who exploit the poor because they lack market information or the ability to use the market information to increase their own incomes. Another key that prevents the poor from raising capital is that they are often forced to purchase public goods and services at a much higher cost that are readily available to other groups in society at market or below market prices(6).

Some effects of poverty are not easily understood, and are therefore sometimes mistakenly considered the cause of poverty. For example, studies link poverty to crime. In many cases, most crime leads to poverty and not the other way around. Crime indirectly increases poverty in many ways, even simple burglary or mugging. A high crime rate drives businesses out of neighborhoods. This eliminates both availability of products and services, as well as sources of jobs. Further, those who do stay find it necessary to charge higher prices to compensate for losses due to thievery, and higher costs of both security measures and insurance premiums (if insurance is available at all). Property values are driven down by lighter demand because of the greater potential difficulty purchasers may encounter in obtaining mortgage loans. The loss of productive activity by those who thrive on preying on others reduces the positive output of an area in which they live. Thus, crime injures economically both direct victims and others in a crime-ridden neighborhood. Just as people are better off in a society where a large portion of people are more educated and more productive, people in a crime-infested area become more oppressed than otherwise.

Criminals themselves lose ground economically. A large portion of people charged with criminal activity are relatively young. Criminal behavior harms them in several ways. They may spend time incarcerated when they could be gaining employment experience. A criminal record may impede future employment. Young criminals develop attitudes and habits that are detrimental to participation in the workplace. By these actions, many criminals, in essence, condemn themselves to poverty (9, 10).

With poverty, sickness is often found. Most illnesses associated with poverty are infectious diseases, such as diarrhoeal illness, malaria, and tuberculosis. All of them are associated with lack of income, clean water and sanitation, food, and access to medical services and education, all of which characterize poor countries and communities. Diseases are linked to malnutrition, and children are most susceptible to them. Environmental, social and dietary changes produced by industrialization and urbanization lead to higher rates of...
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