How does poverty impact modern society?

By Daniil Filipenco

How does poverty impact modern society?

The impact of poverty on the modern world is the elephant in the room that richer nations tend to avoid. Meanwhile, its seriousness should not be ignored as poverty has no borders and can spread at an astonishing rate across the world. In 2021 alone, 77 million people worldwide became poor according to the United Nations. People living in poverty cannot afford proper healthcare services or education for their children, cannot pay taxes nor buy goods and services, therefore stagnating the economy.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the social issues linked to poverty.

What is poverty?

Poverty can be defined as a person’s lack of resources to afford basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Poverty has numerous immediate negative impacts on the individual and his/her family as well as on the economy, education, and healthcare.

Poverty and education are intimately intertwined. For example, children from poor families may forgo their education in order to find employment, thus they do not learn the skills necessary to advance their careers and, as a result, have a lower chance of becoming successful and earning enough money to pay for food, clothing and shelter.

In addition, a fall in income levels harms the economy of a state since many individuals living in poverty are unable to buy commodities and services, not to mention pay taxes. This causes a drop in budgetary and business income which could result in cycles of recession and fewer job opportunities.

The UN’s data from 2021 shows that 889 million people fell victim to extreme poverty. This is a huge step backwards compared to 2019 when the figure was 812 million. The main cause of such a dramatic 77 million people being pushed into poverty is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The issues of adults raised in poverty

Childhood poverty is linked to worse socioeconomic results in early adulthood, including lower levels of educational achievement, productivity in the job market, health, and even general levels of happiness. Moreover, in 2016 researchers found that poverty during childhood can result in cognitive difficulties such as memory loss and elevated stress levels during adulthood.

Using government information, a study tracked children who were born in the period 1968 to 1975 until they were 30 to 37 years old. The authors outlined the issues that the adults who had experienced poverty during childhood had. These included:

  • Poor level of education
  • Incomes twice as low compared to those who had wealthier childhoods
  • Nearly three times as many of them reported having poor health
  • They were twice as likely to be detained (males only).

Top 10 social problems linked with poverty

1️⃣ Food insecurity

Food insecurity is defined as the lack of access to the types and quantities of food required for each person or family to live an active and healthy life. Poverty leads to food insecurity which then causes hunger and malnourishment which are closely related.

Children under five years and women are among those impacted the most by malnourishment.

2️⃣ Poor hygiene and sanitation

A lack of access to water and sanitary facilities is one of poverty’s most noticeable direct effects. The majority of people who suffer from extreme poverty depend on freshwater sources such as rivers and lakes for their daily needs – cooking, washing, and bathing – because they are unable to buy drinking water. Since many water sources are polluted and a lot of the poorest regions lack proper bathrooms, people can develop serious health issues including cholera, diarrhea, and hepatitis A.

3️⃣ Crime

Poverty and crime often go hand in hand. The majority of street crimes — homicides, robberies, burglaries, etc. — are committed by poor (and nearly poor) individuals who also make up the majority of the casualties of street crimes. Poor neighborhoods also negatively impact children who are more likely to join gangs or become crime victims.

4️⃣ Poor physical health

People living in poverty are more prone to experience a variety of health issues, mainly due to inadequate medical care and poor diet. Children from low-income households can develop health, behavioral, and cognitive issues. Their inability to succeed academically and find stable jobs as adults as a result of these issues means that poverty will be transferred to the next generations.

Poor people also experience exhaustion more frequently than others. Since many of those living in poverty earn less than they need and can barely afford to pay for necessities such as shelter, transportation, and nutrition, they tend to be less productive at work, often being hungry.

5️⃣ Mental health issues

Poverty can lead to mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. This is because poor people tend to be unaware of what tomorrow holds for them, and whether they will be able to afford food and shelter. In addition, drug and alcohol abuse is more prevalent among the poor since they view these products as a way to escape reality.

6️⃣ Family issues

Domestic violence, divorce, and other family problems are more likely to affect the poor. Families affected by poverty experience more stress and, when issues arise, poor families are less likely to effectively handle them, compared to wealthier couples.

7️⃣ Poor education

Children affected by poverty are less likely to attend schools and, if they do, there is little chance they will graduate and thus not achieve a proper education. Compared to children from wealthy families, they are significantly less likely to finish high school or enroll in college. Their poor education further consigns them and their offspring to poverty, thus the cycle of poverty is perpetuated for future generations.

8️⃣ Homelessness

Poverty may be a factor that pushes people to become homeless. Many low-income families spend a large portion of their earnings on rent. Moreover, they frequently reside in areas lacking good job possibilities, quality schools, and other amenities that people from wealthier backgrounds benefit from.

9️⃣ Antisocial conduct

Littering, aggression, and vandalism are examples of antisocial conduct. Poverty is the root of the problem, but social marginalization and a lack of education are also to blame. The more educated and socially active a person is, the less antisocial they tend to be.

🔟 Delayed child growth

After birth, a baby’s brain starts to develop quickly and thus requires proper nutrition and stimulation. In poor families, the development of children can be permanently harmed or delayed.

Children from low-income homes are less likely to take part in various social activities. In addition, they are more likely to suffer from domestic, physical, and psychological abuse which also impacts their development.

Final word

Poverty can lead to inequality which in turn instigates antisocial behavior. This is because poor people cannot afford high-quality housing, proper medical services and, most importantly, education. It is also significant that many of these people reside in places with high crime rates. Poverty also has a significant impact on children. One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that children from families with lower incomes are more likely to experience domestic violence. Moreover, they struggle more in schools and are less to get a quality education. All of these issues impact society as a whole.