Comparison and constrast of the cuases of poverty in modern societies


The human society is characterized with inequality in terms of those how posses means of production (known as the capitalists) and the peasants or workers (proletariats). There is thus, a classification of human in a society according to those in the higher class level especially those who are well to do, and influential, because of the wealth they posses. There are those in the lower class level, who are usually characterized by their poor financial status, and the inability to command and influence their society. At this juncture, one would begin to ask why is the inequality in our society so obvious? Why is there poverty still present in our society despite several effort of government to stem the tide of indigence?

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Scholars have purported several reasons as the attributive cause of poverty in our society.  Two broad taxonomies among these categories is the classification of the creation of poverty through individual characteristics, and the role of society in the nurturing the growth and presence in poverty. Poverty in itself reduces human being to the state of inferior to their affluent counterparts. According to Alfonso & Alfonso (2006), “poverty does not offer some individuals the opportunity to develop a repertoire of options to life situations. At the same time, the condition of poverty can generate a range of emotions, such as depression, anxiety, fear, anger, helplessness, despair, and emotional isolation”.

This study compares and contradicts the causes of poverty in our society.


The word poverty and inequality goes hand in hand. Poverty entails the state of lack, and the inability to meet ones need financially. Every society is characterized by inequality. “Inequalities in the distribution of income and wealth are a feature of all market societies” (Hardiman, et al 2005). The affluent in the society usually are those in the upper class, and control power and means of production in the society. There are usually as makers and shakers of the society. The poor are inflicted with poverty and have little or no means of income, with standard of living less than a US dollar a day. Giving a definition to poverty from the perspective of those rising in US, Alfonso & Alfonso (2006) defined poverty as, “the lack of resources, financial and otherwise, needed to live in the United States in a manner that enables the individual to develop their cognitive, physical and emotional capacities”. In this scenario, poverty is considered as the inability to adequately gain access to public welfare services and means to live a more comfortable live, such as housing, educational institution and health care services for those who cant afford the cost. There is then the need for advocacy intervention to right the social imbalance in form of inequality arising from poverty. “Poverty is the primary criterion for legal services in the nation’s public defenders system” (ibid). In State like Kentucky, as well as other part of US in 2000, the Census Bureau pegged estimated income that is associated with a poor individual and family. For an individual who earns $9,393 and a family of three who earn $14,680 annually they are poor. The rate of poverty in US rose from a 10% to 12.5%, as a result in the number of single female parents with having their children living with them (ibid).


As already stated earlier, there is no one singular factor responsible for the cause of poverty in a society; there are plethora factors. Some of these factors are traced to individual behavior and attitude to life, while others are associated to the way the society conduct itself in the allocation of resources and means set  up for human development. From the individual perspective, poverty is caused by the person’s behavior and attitude to work. Some individual are natural lazy, and do not have the zeal to work. This invariably leads to impoverishment. Some people have the attitude to gain instant enjoyment, and forms aversion for hard work. In this same view, Hardiman et al (2005), stated, “Poverty in accordance to individual point of view is caused by people’s own actions and behavior, relating to their lack of motivation or hard work”. Wealth is derived from input in form of hard work and investment. When a person lacks the motivation to work through hard work, he is prone to be poor as he lacks the means to generate wealth. From the societal perspective, the lack of opportunities created by the society to the people result in poverty. When there are scarcities of resources and opportunities the people tend to thrive and compete for the little available, this leads to inequality and poverty. So society with mixed or plethora groups may encourage the thriving of poverty through the discrimination against a group in the society. “Societal perceptions attribute poverty to broad structural factors that include lack of opportunity, discrimination against particular groups, among others” (ibid). There exists a continuum between the causal factor of poverty arising from the individual perspective and from the societal perspective. The casual factors between the individual factors for the cause of poverty are not totally independent and discrete from societal or structural cause of poverty.

Furthermore, the categorization of causes of poverty can come in the following taxonomy: individual behavior, fatalistic tendencies, and structural framework in a society.  Fatalistic tendencies has to do with the people belief to accept their fate that they are destined to be poor, and do nothing to remedy the situation. This is mostly reflected in under developed countries with fetish believe, as found in African and Asia countries. The individual perspective mostly characterizes explanation for poverty in most literature. According to a survey conducted by Feagin in 1972, where he interviewed 1,017 Americans on the possible causes of poverty 53% of the respondents attributed the cause of poverty to individualistic items, 22% to structural factors and 18% to fatalistic factors (Harper, 2001).

Measuring the rate of poverty from a societal level, there is a level of wealth expected to reach before a community or people residing in an area would be term ‘well to do’ or ‘poor’.  The indicator for measuring those living within the poverty line is based on income generated by a household or an income bracket for community of people. Thus the indicators for measuring poverty from a societal perspective include the following indices: the level of unemployment rate in the society, the number of single female parent with number of children, the percentage of household with high number of children below 18 years, the percentage of low educated persons, the crime rate in such society.  “a community is disadvantaged if it lies below the mean or medium for household income and percent homeowners and if it falls above the mean or medium for poverty rate, unemployment rate, percentage non-white, percentage foreign born, percentage female-headed household with children under 18 years, percentage with less high school diploma and reported crime level” (Boyd, 2006). These indicators tend to differentiate a community that is over the poverty level from that who are subsumed in poverty. Furthermore, in a society that is inflicted with constant war and inter tribal or community cleavages are prone to war. “A re-analysis of the data noted that high just world believers….agree that the poverty of the south was due to exploitation

Those indicator for measuring poverty from the individual perspective relies on the motivation of such individual to work, his attitude to invest and save money, the interest of such individual to be educated, orientation such individual have pertaining to life and living for the future, inter-alia.  In the view of  Karbo (2003), society that is overwhelmed by globalization is the major cause of poverty in contemporary times. “…global economics, alongside the development of dependency theory and modern world system theory…there are rich nations and rapid growing world inequality…this has led to the widespread believe that multinational corporations only enrich the elites of poor nations. This leads to masses of people worse off than before the invasion of these foreign corporation.” It is thus, seen that societal activities in form of exploitation is a major cause of poverty in modern society today.


In differentiating casual factors of poverty this is majorly classified into individual and societal perspectives. While it is a notable fact that the causal effect of poverty brings about inequality, it is also a known fact that both causal factors of poverty (individual and societal perspectives) exist in a continuum; each one continues where the other stops. The individual perspective on the cause of poverty is widely acknowledged in previous literatures conducted. In contemporary time the society plays a wide role in the impoverishment of the masses, through exploitative tendencies, discrimination, and uneven distribution of resources. All these factors goes to make people live below average life with meager resources to keep body and soul.


Alfonso, Cessie & Alfonso, Ivette (2006), “Poverty and its Impact on the Client- Attorney Relationship” in The Advocate Journal of \criminal Justice Education & Research volume 28, Issue No. 3 May (05/10/07)

Boyd, Margaret (20060, “Black Homeownership in a Disadvantaged Urban Neighborhood: Limited Choices or a Neighborhood of Choice?” (05/10/07)

Hardiman, Niamh et al (2005), “Irish Attitudes to Wealth Distribution in Ireland” Paper presented to International Sociological Association research Committee 28 (RC28) May 5-8 (05/10/07)

Harper David J. (2001), “Poverty and Discourse” (05/10/07)

Kerbo, Harold (2003), “Economic Development and Poverty Reduction in SE Asia: Problems for Cultural and Modern World System Explanations” (06/10/07)

Kerbo, Harold R. (2006) Social Stratification and Inequality: Class Conflict in Historical, Comparative, and Global Perspective (6th Ed.) McGraw-Hill. NY.

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