The Cause of Poverty

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The Cause of Poverty

Harrington in his book states that poverty is caused by lack of effort to prosper, living a life of crime and having the faulty lifestyle. Harrington manages to create a line between the poor and rich through his statement that poverty alienates a society ‘’ they are different from us.’’ (607) Barbara is not happy for Harrington suggestions about the cause of poverty, and she can’t believe why many people bought the book.  Barbara believes that Harrington is misleading the society with the book and the suggestion about poverty. Poverty cannot be liked with living a life of crime since there are so many people who are rich and they are in crime business.

These bring support to the government factor coming into the causes of poverty. On the other hand, Barbara raises the issue of government with a different point of view that government should not be included to influence the cause of poverty. She believes that government should not support people but should promote social cohesion and an environment for people to invest. This perhaps supports the idea that government has some roles in the causes of poverty.

Poverty has been a major problem worldwide, affecting nearly all the nations even the developed nations. Since this is such a controversial topic, there are many different perspectives on what causes poverty. Like Michael Harrington, some believe it is solely the individuals fault. Some believe that the government has it all set up, so that “the rich get richer,” and the poor stay at the bottom with no hope of escaping poverty. And some believe that people are just born into poverty, and have no way out. Through my research I have seen many different attributes and categories of the different types of poverty. To simplify arguments, I will be categorizing the attributes of what causes poverty into three groups. The first group will be individualist. This falls under the fault of the individual person; this “blames” the person for their lack of effort, ability to succeed, choice to do drugs, and lack of personal traits to be successful. The second category will be structuralism. This essentially “blames” the features of society, for example the lack of education one can receive, the low income jobs, discrimination of any kind (sexual, racial, etc.), governmental support, agricultural employment, etc. The last category is Fatalist. This term means that the cause of poverty is done by non-human factors, for example being born with a major deficiency, or having a life experience that makes you incapable of functioning with the ability to succeed.

The issue of individualism can be a factor to the cause of poverty. I would like to say that poverty can be fought by an individual through a collaborative effort within the self. Many people are perhaps in poverty due to the fact they are comfortable with the situation and are afraid to make a step in life. Moreover, unlike Evan, Barbara believes that ‘’A failure of individual responsibility is the cause of poverty in the U.S.” (Paragraph 22) This media means that there is an effort that an individual should perform to evade poverty. Therefore, the society through individuals effort, especially within the poverty-stricken regions, should motivate the people to understand that one factor to escape poverty is to become responsible and have the desire to change and grow rich. However, Evan has a different explanation for the causes of poverty. He believes that through an individual has to work; the government and other leaders should stop greed, discrimination, and exploitation. According to him, the causes of poverty are beyond an individual factor, and therefore there are other relevant factors in the environment.

Moreover, based on the article “The causes of poverty: thinking critically about a key economic issue.” Josh Otlin, a university professor, uses two of his colleague’s short scripts as a critical thinking debate exercise. He chose the subject of poverty just because it is such a debatable, controversial topic. Each one of his colleagues had opposing arguments one the causes of poverty. The first short script written by Evan fell under the category of structuralism. Evan believes that business/company owners are greedy, and full of prejudice.  Evan believes that owners play their employees as little as they can so they can afford luxuries for themselves. He also believes the reason people of color are in poverty more often is because they face discrimination on the daily, and get paid less due to the prejudice that people have on them. He believes that because of discrimination, people under poverty fall victim to drug/alcohol abuse. Evan believes that the government should do their best efforts to make sure all citizens enjoy decent standards of living. Even believes “greed, exploitation, and discrimination cause poverty in the U.S.” (Paragraph 16) Barbara is the other author of the opposing short script; her beliefs fell under the category of individualist. Barbara believes that it is wrong to blame business owners for the cause of poverty. She believes that the business owners worked very hard to deserve the wage that they earn, and should be able to pay employees as they please. She does make a good point on saying that no one forces them to take the job under the business owners. Barbara believes that the U.S is the best place to live, and that is why so many immigrants work so hard to make it there. The immigrants also know that the U.S has incredible opportunity. She believes that immigrants have a higher rate of poverty because they cannot adapt to the hard working life style of an American. She believes that poverty rates by race also result in “cultural problems within communities of color, not discrimination.” (Paragraph 24) Barbara believes that the government should not support people, as it just enables them to not work or invest in education. Unlike Evan, Barbara believes “A failure of individual responsibility is the cause of poverty in the U.S.” (Paragraph 22)

The existing short scripts have convincing opinions; I agree with Barbara and believe that poverty is caused by the category of individualist. Unlike other articles about the cause of poverty due to individualism, I will provide ways that individuals can fight to overcome poverty with an individualistic effort. Poverty being such a controversial topic, it is essential to get a thorough description of why poverty is caused by one attribute, in this case, due to individuals. Additionally, mental health has brought a different discussion of understanding that Poverty is not induced by individual efforts but by a collection of factors contributing to the cause. Many people use the excuse stating that mental health has been the cause of poverty since this condition makes people miss opportunities, jobs, and money. Harrington reports that poverty is caused by’’ individual proclivities of the poor.’’

Therefore, to confirm or disapprove the statement a research was carried in various families under poverty in Hong Kong to test their psychology. In my citation “Beliefs about Causes of Poverty and Psychological Well-Being of Parents and Adolescents Experiencing Economic Disadvantage in Hong Kong” The researchers conduct a survey testing the psychological well-being of families under poverty in Hong Kong.  The research reported that there was no sign of mental health or problem in the individual who participated in the program. This medium means that people under poverty mayhem do not have the mental problem. Therefore, there was no limitation toward all individual who would wish to become wealthy. Moreover, this makes another point that they don’t believe poverty is caused by lack of abilities and their efforts. Thus, it’s clear that causes of poverty have brought out many issues with clarity to be attained.


Poverty is a global concern that has led to many research carried out to determine its causes. There have been arguments between the articles from the researcher with some disagreeing with others opinions. Barbara has problems Harrington through his view of poverty and conclusion that poor people are not like the rich. However, various aspects were given with some describing that some governments are responsible for the poverty that strikes their corresponding nations. It is believed that some of this government take root through discriminative abilities by taking some resources from the people and gives them to the rich. Some have also argued that government should be out of the issue since it cannot reach all the citizens and make them wealthy or force them to work to become wealthy. Moreover, others believe that poverty is caused by an individual irresponsive nature making them comfortable in their position. These have brought a lot of controversial issues based on who is right concerning the cause of poverty. Some have also blamed that there is an issue with mental health connection with the poor. Additionally, some have argued that poverty is caused by the absence of opportunities and jobs in the society.  Therefore, we can say that poverty is caused several factors combined making resources to be scared towards an individual. Poverty being such a controversial topic, it is essential to get a thorough description of why poverty is caused by one attribute, in this case, due to individuals.

Work cited

Ehrenreich, Barbara. “How I Discovered the Truth About Poverty.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing, 15 Mar. 2012, pp. 606–609.

Homan, Patricia, Lauren Valentino, and Emi Weed. “Being and becoming poor: How cultural schemas shape beliefs about poverty.” Social Forces 95.3 (2017): 1023-1048.

Lopez, Ramon E. “GROWTH, POVERTY AND ASSET ALLOCATION: THE ROLE OF THE STATE.”Center for Development Research (ZEF), 2001.University of Bonn, Discussion Papers.

Shek, Daniel TL. “Beliefs about causes of poverty and psychological well-being of parents and adolescents experiencing economic disadvantage in Hong Kong.” The American Journal of Family Therapy 32.3 (2004): 239-254.

Selinger, Evan, K. Outterson, and K. P. Whyte. Poverty tourism and the problem of consent. No. 11-22. Boston University Working Paper, 2011.

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