Poverty 101

What is Poverty?

Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter.  However, poverty is more, much more than just not having enough money.

The term poverty is generally used to describe a condition of economic hardship, but it has a technical use as well: to define a specific low-income level for various family sizes.

Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. – World Bank.org

In addition to a lack of money, poverty is about not being able to participate in recreational activities; not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party; not being able to pay for medications for an illness.  These are all costs of being poor. Those people who are barely able to pay for food and shelter simply can’t consider these other expenses.  When people are excluded within a society, when they are not well educated and when they have a higher incidence of illness, there are negative consequences for society.  We all pay the price for poverty.  The increased cost on the health system, the justice system and other systems that provide supports to those living in poverty has an impact on our economy.

There is no one cause of poverty, and the results of it are different in every case. Poverty varies considerably depending on the situation. Feeling poor in Mississippi is different from living in poverty in Russia or Zimbabwe.  The differences between rich and poor within the borders of a country can also be great.

Despite the many definitions, one thing is certain; poverty is a complex societal issue. No matter how poverty is defined, it can be agreed that it is an issue that requires everyone’s attention.  It is important that all members of our society work together to provide the opportunities for all our members to reach their full potential. It helps all of us to help one another .

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