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Poverty Case

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Toni C. Hunt

SOC 203

Professor Tirizia York

May 13, 2011

When you think of poverty, you might think of children starving in a far away country or a homeless person. However with the failure of economies all over the world, poverty has now become a definite possibility for many of different social classes. Undoubtedly, poverty has been a consistent problem all through history. First, I will discuss a brief history of poverty and the types of poverty. Secondly, I will describe the causes of poverty and the results of poverty. Thirdly, I will discuss the relationship between poverty, social class, ethnicity, and age. Lastly, I will discuss different methods or ways to possibly help reduce poverty.

Webster's Dictionary defines poverty as the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions ( The World Bank sets a poverty threshold of $1.00 per day to compare poverty in most of the developing world, $2.00 per day in Latin America, $4.00 per day in Eastern Europe, and $14.40 per day in industrial countries. (Kirst-Ashman, 2011, p. 432) The rise and fall of economies has been consistent throughout history and so has poverty. Poverty was not really documented or focused on during the Middle Ages, stories of the rich or those who were wealthy were more documented.

During the 16th century jobs were scarce; so many people were unemployed that they had to result to begging. The societal view of poverty has changed numerous times. In the 1700's poverty was viewed as God's will and considered a personal problem. (Henslin, 2011 p.200) This view is probably the result of the series of laws that were passed to punish able bodied people for being unemployed. The poor and disabled were given a license to beg. Punishments consisted of beatings, cutting off an ear, enslavement for two years, and death by hanging.

The 16th century shows the first sign of the government trying to help the poor by the order of all towns to build workhouses for the old and disabled. Poverty seemed to get more tangible in the 17th century. At the end of the 17th century a writer estimated that half the population could afford to eat meat every day. In other words about 50% of the people were wealthy or at least reasonably well off. Below them about 30% of the population could afford to eat meat between 2 and 6 times a week ( They would be considered the working poor in today's world. The bottom 20% could only eat meat once a week and had to rely on poor relief. (

An 18th century meal for most poor consisted of bread, butter, potatoes, and tea. Meat was considered a luxury. A small group of people began to combat poverty by a series of relief programs in the 19th century. William Booth formed the Salvation Army in 1878. During the 1890s teachers began providing poor children with a free breakfast of bread and jam and a mug of cocoa. Many poor children were malnourished. ( Also, boot funds began to be formed, to provide free shoes and boots for poor children.

Poverty began to be more documented by the use of pictures and surveys in the 20th century. There were many significant events during the 20th century. Both world wars boosted the economy tremendously. Unfortunately, the United States faced the fall of the stock market and the Great Depression in the 1930s. However, many of the government assisted programs that we have today were put in place to help everyone during the Great Depression. Throughout the 1900s the United States has seen a golden age in the economy and a dark age. Today, the United States is facing a recession, which has caused a high level of unemployment and an increase in poverty.

Anup Shah (2010) reports that 40% of the world's population accounts for 5% of global income. Almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. (Anup Shah, 2010). More than 80% of the world's population lives in countries where income differentials are widening. (Anup Shah, 2010). Low income countries accounted for just $1.6 trillion of GDP. (Anup Shah, 2010). The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation. (Anup Shah, 2010)

Poverty isn't just one dimensional, like some people may believe. There are five types of poverty. The first type of poverty is environmental poverty, which can be due to an increase in human-activity pollution or the basic climate of that region. Human over breeding encourages over-farming of land and helps cut the number and extent of plant and animal species causing biological poverty. ( Although, biological and environmental poverty probably only affects rural areas, economic poverty affects everyone. The majority of the world is experiencing economic poverty due to government debt and widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Exploitation poverty can occur when a wealth minority or a wealthy person has a monopoly over something that is deemed vital. Since these groups of people or person control a vital entity, they can decide how much a person's labor is worth. Fortunately, in the U.S. we have laws that regulate such things. Even though, we have these laws in place, there are still some American employers that exploit illegal immigrants by paying them less for more labor. Lastly, social poverty occurs when we as a people allow our social institutions to dictate how things will run i.e. religion and government. In my opinion, government politics plays a definite role in constructing the line between the "haves" and the "have nots".

I believe that poverty can only be eliminated, if everyone works together. However, this isn't a perfect world and it's easier to overlook poverty, when you have financial security. Eliminating poverty could be achieved by those in an impoverished situation, if they could identify the primary five factors that cause poverty, which are ignorance, disease, apathy, dishonesty, and dependency. Knowledge is the key to success in any situation and a perfect solution in combating ignorance. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names. (Anup Shah, 2010). If knowledge is power, that statistic just eliminated a billion people that can't get information by reading. The wealth of knowledge can equally combat poverty factor of disease. Oftentimes many people in poverty suffer from lack of information about health issues and staying healthy, as well access to health institutions due to lack of money.



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