The Cycle of Poverty – waterpriorities

The Cycle of Poverty

The Cycle of Poverty

There are many dimensions to poverty as a whole that make it seem like a never-ending battle, especially if someone and their family are directly stuck in what is known as the “cycle of poverty.” A cycle of poverty can be defined as a “seemingly endless continuation of poverty.”1 The cycle of poverty has also been defined as a circumstance where poor families become impoverished for at least three generations. This means that these families usually include no living relatives who “possess and can transmit the intellectual, social, and cultural capital necessary to stay out of or change their impoverished conditions.”2 Even if all families trapped in the cycle of poverty did have living relatives with such knowledge available to them, escaping from poverty, especially as a family, is easier said than done.

In this image of a basic cycle of poverty, if a person is born into a poor family (especially if that family is living in a country in one of the least-developed areas in the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa or south Asia), the odds of being able to live a healthy life filled with basic necessities are extremely stacked against them. Chances are tremendously high that this person will have to grow up working at a young age to earn money for their family instead of gaining a normal education. According to the 2016 Global Estimates of child labour, around “one-fifth of all African children are involved in child labour.”3 That means that “72.1 million African children are [employed]”3 to raise money for their families instead of spending that time studying or in school. As also shown in the diagram above, being born into a poor family and not having access to a complete education will most likely lead to a lack of skills to gain a better job, a lower income, and a greater chance of having low self-esteem, substance abuse issues, and higher birth rates. Thus, the cycle of poverty continues with the next generation of children born into the poor family and populations of destitution continue to grow.

So what can be done to change the cycle of poverty? “For years, many scholars blamed [the cycle of poverty] on a culture of poverty- the idea that behavior and attitudes played a key role. [That concept, which basically blamed the victims,] has been universally shunned.”4 Blaming the victims of poverty, instead of learning about their needs and helping them attain them, only makes matters worse for the victims. In order to break the cycle, aid to poverty-stricken areas is needed at local and sometimes national levels. Although certain causes of poverty, such as drought and natural disasters, cannot be prevented, the negative effects of other factors, such as extreme population growth and low income, can be minimalized. Companies such as The Global Partnership for Education, that “works with partner-developing countries to help them implement quality education sector plans,”5 are exceedingly important in regards to breaking the cycle of poverty. The more education that people in poor communities and countries gain access to, the more likely opportunities will arise for better jobs, which results in improved incomes for them and their families and better preventative measures against diseases, infections, and unplanned pregnancies. Although there are many other areas of concern that need to be addressed to confront the cycle of poverty, the expansion of education worldwide could be one of the most effective in breaking the cycle.


  1. What is Poverty Cycle?
  2. The Challenges of Poverty Measurement in the Arab Region
  3. Child Labour in Africa
  4. Reconsidering the “Culture of Poverty”
  5. Developing Country Partners

Additional Sources:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *