The Detriment of Generational Poverty

Posted by on Jan 18, 2014 in Poverty | Comments Off on The Detriment of Generational Poverty

The Detriment of Generational Poverty

The Detriment of Generational Poverty

By: Philippe SHOCK Matthews

The word “poverty” produces different images in a person’s mind. One could look at it as a financially difficult situation while others will define it by how and where one lives. It doesn’t even help that the definition of poverty in most dictionaries refers to “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.” (Merriam Webster)

In short, there is no clear definition of how someone can be considered “in poverty” because there are a lot of scenarios to consider. For example, the US Census Bureau establishes different poverty thresholds depending on family size. In fact, being considered poor in one state in the US might not hold true in another state. That being said, giving a real definition of poverty is a tough thing to do.

However, poverty can be broken down into different types, and one of them is generational poverty. This is defined as having been in poverty for at least two generations. It is also associated with several key factors such as:

  • Hopelessness – When people think that their life could not get any better, they tend to lose motivation which eventually leads them to believe they’re hopeless. In a worst case scenario, people who have lost hope may even turn to shady means just to survive.
  • Surviving rather than planning – Whether it’s finding money for food or looking for a place to live, those living in poverty have an attitude of survival. They think in a daily process of surviving the day, rather than mapping out their future.
  • Counterproductive traditions – Sometimes, those who were born into poverty inherit” the situation of their ancestors. For example, someone might not get the chance at an education because that has been the case in their family. Instead, they settle for looking for jobs to survive.

What causes poverty?

The cause of poverty cannot be pinpointed to just one factor as there are a lot of things that can lead to this type of situation. In fact, there are some causes that are reversible, but there are others that are just hard to get over. And this is speaking for both developed and developing nations across the world. That being said, here are some of the causes of poverty:

  • economic situation of the country
  • lack of education
  • overpopulation
  • epidemic diseases such as AIDS and malaria
  • environmental problems

One could also make a case for disasters as a cause for poverty. Take the devastating effect that typhoon Haiyan had on the Philippines. The natural disaster resulted in people losing not only their homes, but their means of livelihood as well. This has led some people to live in absolute poverty because they no longer have a roof over their head, no place to buy food, and almost no room for getting an education.

What are the effects of poverty?

It’s not a secret that the effects of poverty are serious, and one of the most affected is the health of a person. Those who grew up with absolutely nothing suffer more severe health problems than those who live comfortable lives. Not only that, they suffer them more frequently.

Those born into poverty are more likely to have a low birth weight, which is sadly associated with mental and physical disabilities.

Those who were raised in poverty have a tendency to miss school because they are almost always sick.

Those who are living in absolute poverty, meaning having no homes, don’t receive proper nutrition and immunization which leads them to develop health problems.

Apart from health issues, other effects of poverty include:

  • crime
  • hunger
  • illness
  • illiteracy
  • unemployment

What are the consequences of poverty?


It’s a sad thought that crime is one the most negative consequences of poverty. This happens because a “culture of poverty” develops among families who struggle just to meet their basic needs. People develop beliefs that their chances are limited for future success. And one of the most disheartening things people turn to is crime as an alternative to getting employment.

It’s not even a secret that there is a direct link between poverty and crime. What’s even worse, wherever you find poverty, surely you’d find crime as well. Citing data from the hard times in Europe from 1975 to 1995, it was found that there was a big tendency for theft and violence among the uneducated youth who were also unemployed.

However, this isn’t the case when people are given the opportunity to stay in school. It shows that there is a lot less violence the more time is spent at school.


Another consequence of poverty is the lack of education. In fact, there is a huge link between the two. When children who live in poverty start school, they are less developed compared to those who grew up in a family with a high income.

Of course, factors such as poor health care, an unsafe environment, limited access to good nutrition, and the scarce availability of books definitely have a big impact on the development of a child. In particular, their cognitive development and ability to learn is heavily affected.


It’s a sad thing when people start to hate themselves for the situation they are in. It’s not hard to blame them when they start hating themselves because they couldn’t get out of the bad place they’re in. This is why it’s important for everyone to get an equal opportunity so no matter what their status is in life, at least there is hope for success.


One of the worst consequences of poverty is not being able to provide food for the family. Without earning sufficient money to feed a number of children, it’s no wonder why children are starving. And even worse, it is no wonder why people turn to stealing and other malicious activities just to put food in the bellies of their family.


The job market is particularly difficult for those living in poverty. As mentioned above, there is a lack of good jobs for those who live in poverty. This fact makes it hard for them to climb out of being at a disadvantaged situation. Even worse, the absence of good employment opportunities will most likely ensure a cycle of poverty. What’s even more disappointing is that the cycle will continue on until the pattern can be broken.

Mental health issues

Another area that can be severely affected by poverty is mental health. Living in a difficult situation is a stressful situation. People who live in poverty are more likely to see a fair share of job loss, drug addiction, and death. All of these can lead them to feel anxious or depressed about their situation. Even worse, when they experience all these negative things as a child, it can carry well onto adulthood.

One of the problems with children brought up in poverty is the amount of time their parents can spend with them. Since mothers and fathers are struggling to make ends meet, they often cannot attend to their own children and leave them elsewhere – be it day care or with a neighbor – just so they can look for money to put food on the table. The lack of quality time with parents leads children to have low self-esteem and have difficulties forming relationships with others. Moreover, children who continue to spend time with other individuals instead of their parents leave a negative impact on their emotional health.

What can be done?

Generational poverty cannot be ignored. It’s tough for someone to live in poverty and then have to see their children live in the same situation. That being said, it’s not hard for those living in this situation to blame society and the government for the state they’re in. However, their complaints seem to fall on deaf ears leaving them to think of other ways to survive.

So, what exactly can be done to get people out of a slump or at least give them opportunities so they can build a better future?

  • It all starts with the government

The government should have programs that address poverty. There are lots of things that can be done, especially when speaking of health and nutrition.

When it comes to nutrition, the government can provide programs that help young children get access to good nutrition. Not only that, they can also help pregnant women get the right nutrition to ensure they have healthy babies.

Another thing that can be done is to provide affordable health insurance for those living in poverty. This way, they at least have something to fall back on in case any of their family members falls ill or needs medical attention.

  • Help from non-profit organizations is useful

Over the years, a lot of these groups have been really helpful in giving aid to those in need, and their help in whatever way possible is always appreciated. They can help in terms of education, health, and overall development.

For example, let’s use the program of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. The organization works hard to help children realize their potential and build their futures. They do this by doing a lot of mentoring between an adult and a child. They have been doing this for over 100 years as well.

Another organization that has been helping low income children is the Salvation Army. They have several offerings such as camps for at risk children. In these camps, kids can learn a lot of things in various fields, including arts, crafts, music, and sports.

  • Help from fellow citizens

Of course, it’s also important for fellow citizens to help whatever way they can. First, they can offer a little bit of money to different organizations that help the less fortunate. Whatever amount that can be contributed will be able to help a particular organization drive their cause forward and help more people.

Second, they can spread awareness. It’s not a secret that social media is a very big thing with everyone these days. And simply sharing information about a cause through Twitter or Facebook is enough to generate attention. Even though this is a very simple way of helping, getting the word out to as many people as possible is more than enough help.

Third, they can offer their time and volunteer. A lot of organizations look for volunteers to help them with their cause, and donating a little of one’s time whether it be over the weekend or summer will be very much appreciated. Volunteering can be as simple as participating in feeding programs, teaching kids how to read, or helping them learn about sports.

Final words

If the continued lack of good jobs for those living in poverty persists, it will be tougher for people to climb out of the situation they are in. Nonprofits such as the HOW Movement and ordinary citizens can help all they want, but unless problems such as insufficient access to education, food, and employment are properly addressed, the problem regarding poverty will continue to exist. When this happens, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when people turn to illegal means as a way to stay alive.