Poverty Worldwide: Examining the Roots of Economic Decline


Certain reasons for why poverty manifests in certain countries have been uncovered. (Internet Photo)

Grace Downing and Melanie Wang

Every day, 22,000 children meet their demise at the hands of poverty, according to UNICEF. What stimulates such a high amount of deaths, and how does country after country seem to fall prey to the looming figure of poverty at some point in its life? With agricultural droughts, sweeping hurricanes and corrupt government systems plaguing countries at every turn, numerous factors come into play when the causes of such a major deficiency are laid out.

One issue that sends countries into a downward spiral is the destruction of agriculture. Today, farmers grow food for not only themselves and their families, but essentially for the entire world. Farmers Feeding the World, a farm journal foundation initiative, wrote that on average, a single American farmer can feed 155 people. Humans rely heavily on a minute amount of farmland and farmers to provide us with quite an abundance of food. So when droughts hit or severe weather occurs, it can catastrophically damage acres of crops and kill numerous livestock that had been raised to be eaten. When this happens, farmers are left with next to nothing to show for all their hard work, and all those who depend on them for food come up empty-handed.

Another factor causing poverty is natural disasters. In 2013, 22 million people worldwide lost their homes and all of their belongings to natural disasters, according to the website Climate Progress. Because of these hazards, entire towns can be swept away or torn to shreds in the span of a single day. This destruction can lead to buildings that once ran businesses and employed thousands of people to be unable to give those people jobs and therefore pay them. In addition to disasters, war can also displace multitudes of people as well. According to World Vision, over 12 million people in Syria have been displaced by civil war.

When asked how she thought that countries who have experienced natural disasters could attempt to keep those affected by them from falling into a state of poverty, social studies teacher Amanda Schmidt has insight on how to solve this issue.

“Getting assistance from other countries is crucial, and looking at international bodies like the United Nations for help,” Schmidt said. “I think no country can prepare for natural disasters.”

An additional factor that places countries into poverty is the efficiency of its leaders. When a country fails to take its citizens into account, issues begin to rise. Leaders may take citizen’s taxes and use that money on themselves, instead of using it to better their country and its people with things like development projects and providing more jobs.

Many times, because countries have corrupt leaders, that oppressive and deficient environment will stimulate different types of social inequality among the citizens of that society. They can be separated into different classes, usually from birth, and the probability of their success would be based on the class in which they’ve been put. These social castes can be determined by numerous elements, including gender, race, religion and ethnicity. North Korea is a prime example of a country that is suffering from poverty due to power-hungry leaders and socially divided citizens.

Class divide also plays a major role in the ever-growing poverty crisis. According to a study conducted by the University of California at Santa Cruz, the richest one percent of America owns 40 percent of the nation’s financial wealth, while the bottom 80 percent only owns seven percent. The United States ranks fourth on the list of countries with the widest inequality gap, only behind Chile, Mexico, and Turkey. There are many causes of this chasm, some of which are the taxes that favor the rich and educational attainment.

Social studies teacher Mrs. Hoffman believes the gap between the rich and the poor is not getting better.

“I think the gap is still a huge issue, Hoffman said. “We have our rich getting richer and our poor getting poorer, and actually, the gap is slowly becoming more of an issue.”

A good educational system is crucial to fixing the class divide. In states like Pennsylvania, funds are currently directed towards well-performing schools, and underperforming schools are shut down. This hinders the learning process for low income students.

Freshman Oleksandra Shashkova thinks that schooling is one of the easiest ways to bridge the gap.

“Education is the best way to solve the divide between the classes,” Shashkova said. “It would actually fix a lot of problems, such as enabling the poor to get better jobs.”

Senior Anusha Thotakura spoke of some ways she thought countries could come out of poverty, specifically pointing out the improvement of schooling and developing a stronger foundation.

“They can build infrastructures and they can focus on education in younger ages,” Thotakura said. “A lot of the countries with the highest poverty rates also have the lowest literacy rates, and the problem is that there’s a lot of places where they don’t want their children to get educated, or it’s mostly like half the population, like all the girls can’t get educated. So if we could educate kids at younger ages and make sure that there’s universal access to education for people of both genders, it would be easier for them to all get jobs once they grow up.”