Archive | October, 2011


13 Oct


There is usually a good amount of talk about poverty and poverty reduction in most developing societies. However, little if at all any attention is paid to the causes and hence the root of this scourge. This article aims to highlight the major causes of poverty so that instead of concentrating on how to reduce it, people can pay attention to the roots and perhaps uproot them before the ‘tree’ grows too big.


To start with, we need to know what poverty is. Many writers assert that there are two main types of poverty. These are absolute poverty and relative poverty.


With absolute poverty people generally do not have what they need. They are short of basic foodstuff, shelter, clothing and adequate or sufficient health care.


On the other hand just like beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, poverty may be viewed to be a subjective term and what is poverty to someone may not be poverty to someone else. What is poverty under relative terms is viewed as being what some people lack in relation to other people. Under relative poverty measures, a mean level of income may be established under which a person may be considered to be living in poverty. Any one living above that level may be considered not to be living in poverty.

Whether it is absolute or relative poverty people refer to in any particular argument or conversation, there are certain general causes of poverty. Below are a list of the top three causes:

1. Illiteracy

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Another one that catches my attention is Victor Hugo’s saying that “He who opens a school door, closes a prison”. Without education people can not communicate with great effectiveness. They can not share ideas and are taken advantage of. For most people who have developed, they have learnt how to read, how to write numbers and to be disciplined. This has helped them share, innovate and get the best in life. The price; unfortunately, for these who have either refused education or been denied of it, is poverty.

2. Health

Without health, nothing can go well. People can not work, they can not learn and they have to spend huge amounts of money on reviving or trying to revive their health at the expense of other things. Scourges such as cancer and HIV/AIDS have for many years deprived poor people of other basic requirements. With better health, such people may have the opportunity to work harder and spend more on other things that could move them from poverty in absolute terms.

3. Income

Just like Michael Porter argues (in his diamond) that nations have competitive advantage so it is for individuals. A person may be better off in terms of revenue generation solely because of what country an individual is based in. This is the reason some people are always trying to leave the countries they are based in for ‘greener pastures’. If a country created the comparative advantage it needed to retain the best people, maybe just maybe its production capacity would improve and poverty would reduce-a better effect on the production possibility frontier.

The problem with the above causes is that they can also be effects. Whether causes or effects; they are major considerations in poverty and its reduction. This is an argument that would probably be an interesting area of research.

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