Causes of Poverty

Helen wrote about some of the difficult statistics that are reality on many isolated American Indian reservations today.  These statistics – high levels of unemployment, disease, school drop-out, food insecurity, overcrowded housing conditions – are symptomatic of the social issue of poverty.

Many people equate poverty with a lack of money.  It is actually far more involved than simply being short on cash.  Poverty is a social problem.  It is a profound injustice that permeates nearly every dimension of the culture and society that experiences it.

The symptoms of poverty that Helen described are problems.  They contribute to a lower quality of life and cause suffering for the people who experience them.  In order to effectively combat poverty is it important to understand not only the effect it has on a group of people today but it is also important to understand what created the conditions of poverty in the first place. 

Poverty has many causes: colonialism, genocidal attempts, slavery, war and conquest, among others. In my Feb 21 post, I wrote a little about the shameful history of federal policies toward Native people.  It is this history of colonization and resulting effects that has led to the condition of poverty we see in many reservation communities today.  

If you are interested in learning more, please refer to American Indian history and other sources from my February 21 post. You can also learn more about the social problem of poverty and about National Relief Charities’ work with Native community leaders who are creating change.

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  1. Posted March 3, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    There is an interesting debate in the blogosphere exploring the reasons for the persistent high unemployment rates in the US and elsewhere. Conservatives lay the blame on the structural skills mismatch and argue that this cannot be resolved through any stimulus spending measures. Liberals claim that the massive slump in aggregate demand from the boom, means that there are massive idling resources which can be brought to work with an appropriately structured stimulus program.

    • Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

      Poverty is not solely, or maybe even primarily, an economic problem. However, I believe that when resources are thoughtfully placed with programs, which address core issues that reinforce a state of poverty, those resources can make a difference. I think we all know that tossing money willy-nilly at poverty will not eliminate it. At best that can only alleviate some of its symptoms.

      Issues like disease, lack of information/education, apathy, corruption and access perpetuate poverty. If solutions are aimed at the eradication of those issues,they can have a real and durable impact on poverty. Some of those solutions might require money. And most often the people experiencing a problem are in the best position to know the solution. Empowering people who live in poverty in meaningful and long term solutions is key to change.

  2. Posted March 3, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Reply to post by Causes of Poverty, 2011/03/02 at 7:28 pm, who said: “Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……”

    I’m encouraged to hear you are having discussion about causes of poverty. Such discussion supports good decisions about how to address it most effectively. There seems to be general agreement about what the condition of poverty looks like — poor access to basic goods and services, inadequate physical security, low levels of health, insufficient opportunities, susceptibility to violence, hunger, inadequate housing, limited access to education, lack of access to credit. There is less agreement about the causes of poverty. Some view the causes as primarily economic, others point to geographic displacement, destruction of natural environments, shifting political policies and more. The cause of poverty, of course, is not simple or one dimensional. Despite the lack of agreement regarding causes, most any thoughtful and durable approach to addressing poverty involves empowerment of the people living in poverty… empowerment to change their own circumstances and resolve the conditions that continue to perpetuate poverty in their society. That is why NRC mission is built around the principles of empowerment and self determination.

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