Poverty is defined as “the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living.” (Fisher 1).

The various causes of poverty are diverse, with economic reasons being the most prevalent. The various factors that cause poverty, the comparison between poor countries and the reason for the disparity are discussed below.

Causes of Poverty

Lack of sustainable work directly attributes to poverty. Employment provides an avenue for access to resources, which in this case is money. The unemployed find it challenging to afford to satisfy the basic needs such as quality food, clothes and habitable shelter.

Low level of income results in the fact that households are unable to sustain their daily expenditure. This pushes such households into poverty.

Background of an individual can also be a cause of poverty. There is evidence of generational/inherited poverty, especially for individuals from poor background as seen in the Khmer people of Vietnam who account for over 53% of poverty in Vietnam (Thuy 1)

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Another cause of poverty is the lack of education or low level of education. It curtails innovation and entrepreneurship that can lift people out of poverty. Lack of education also contributes to poor decision making regarding expenditure and poor resource management. This also translates to a reluctance to apply for formal jobs.

Lack of agricultural land among the people of Khmer is also a contributing factor to poverty since it prevents any form of subsistence and commercial farming; up to 89% of the total number of households relying on agricultural activities.

Poor economic policies is responsible for unemployment due to stagnation and /or negative growth of the economy. For example in Zimbabwe, an anti-foreigner kind of economic policy pushes the economy to total collapse with unprecedented levels of inflation pushing the majority of the population into abject poverty.

Corruption in governments that drains away crucial resources needed by the masses adds to the overall level of poverty as well. Developing countries are bedeviled by the corruption scandals.A good example of such scandal is the Triton scandal in Kenya about crude oil acquisition.

Effects of Poverty

One of the effects of the poverty is the undermined social and economic development. A case study of squatter settlers in Lima, Peru co-development illustrates how heightened poverty in the neoliberal age undermines socio-economic development.

Poverty is known to exacerbate epidemics and disease breakouts due to the inability of governments to manage the breakout, as in the case of malaria epidemic prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malnutrition related diseases are also prevalent in poverty-stricken societies.

Insecurity. Poverty pushes people into crime in an effort to make ends meet. Criminal activities in poverty-stricken neighborhoods are high, for example, poverty in the Soweto slums has turned it into one of the most insecure places in South Africa.

Social unrest and protests levels are higher in countries with high poverty, especially with the prevailing economic meltdown. This fact can be illustrated by the example of social unrest in South Africa due to unemployment and income disparity.

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One of the solutions can be the implementation of agricultural development policies, an example of which is a Government Program 134 (Note 1) that was implemented for the Khmer people in Giang province, Vietnam that encompassed agricultural modernization and credit services. Agricultural education should also be provided together with Government support in terms of seeds and agricultural guidance.

Implementation of sound economic policies can also be one of the solutions as it would stimulate economic development and industrialization, thereby creating employment. Chinese economic policies propelled it from poverty to being the second world economy right now.

Another way of reducing poverty is the implementation of free basic education that would promote literacy. Also, poor countries need to review the education system to offer technical education to the population as it would encourage self-employment. Basic financial education should also be offered to promote financial planning and management.

Formulation and implementation of sound land policies that encourage zoning to prevent encroachment of agricultural land by, for example, real estate developers. This would reduce the agricultural land deficit. Land use policies should give directive on how land should be utilized to prevent an eventuality of idle productive land.

Implementation of stringent accountability laws and large penalties will curb corruption at the government level. Public awareness campaigns on fighting corruption should be encouraged. Adaptation of livelihood to encompass different economic activities; people should be encouraged to seek other avenues such as fishing as an alternative to agriculture.

Comparisons between Developed and Developing Countries

In developed countries, unlike developed countries the level of poverty is reduced though, there have been recent increases in poverty indices, for example, poverty index rose from 14.3% in 2009 to 15.1% in 2010 in the US. The level in developing nations is high, in some cases in excess of half the population, for example, 53% poverty levels among people of Khmer in Vietnam.


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In developed nations, poverty may not be essentially viewed as lack of essential needs but as the lack of opportunities and choices. In the developing nations, poverty is viewed in terms of daily essential needs with poverty being defined as living below 1dollar a day.

The ratio of non-food to food expenditure is higher in developed countries when compared to developing countries. This points out the amount of disposable income in developed countries hence the levels of poverty.

Reasons for the Differences

The reasons for the disparity can be attributed to the levels and quality of education. Level and system of education in developed countries is based on learned skills and innovation, which encourages self-employment hence reducing poverty. In developing countries, high levels of illiteracy hinder economic development.

Sound economic policies in developed countries that encourage setting up of investments thereby providing employment to their citizens. In developed countries, bottlenecks and bureaucracy making it expensive to setup investments characterize the economic policies. The nature and extent of government support is different in the two countries.

Social programs in form of social security have been initiated in developed countries for the old and disabled who may not be in a position to fend for them. This has helped alleviate poverty levels. Many of the developing nations are not in a position to offer such programs due to their high cost and wide spread poverty.

The level of income in developed countries is higher compared to developing nations due to strong economies hence increasing the level of disposable income. Developing countries have the low level of income that may sometimes not meet their expenditures.


The global levels of poverty are still high and more should be done to alleviate poverty. The millennium development goals are a start in trying to eradicate poverty. There is no accurate criterion for comparing poverty unless same parameters are applied regardless of where people live.

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