In our global community, the concept of poverty has varied dependent upon our ideological perspectives. Our perspectives about the causation of poverty are frequently skewed by our relationship to poverty itself. There are many variables that might be the causation of poverty: if we have never fallen unto hard times, if we have never had to live paycheck-to-paycheck, then the likelihood that we might worry over financial matters may be slim-to-none. Likewise, our relationship to poverty may be slanted, if we have never encountered someone who has had to struggle financially. The economics of our time may have a dire effect upon those who have previously had no relationship with poverty. The outcome of this current economic turmoil may cause a shift in the financial security that many have once known.
According to a past study by the National Public Radio (NPR), Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University’s Kennedy School, indicated “that 52 percent of the American public believed that lack of motivation was a major cause of poverty; another 35 percent believed it was a minor cause of poverty.” Interestingly enough, the research went on to explain that “lack of motivation” was often the catalyst for anyone who was anchored to poverty. Reversely, the research indicated that anyone who had motivation and desire could leverage themselves out of poverty.
When discussing those in poverty, and the poor, research has often reflected those within the majority of one’s society. Thus, if a society believes a fundamental principle is true, then that society is more apt to support that guiding principle.
Research conducted by the Pew Research Center explains that the “Views of why people are rich have changed significantly over the past few years, with a growing share of Americans saying the main reason a person is rich is because they possess more advantages than other people.” Yet, in an article published in the Los Angeles Times, How do Americans view poverty? by David Lauter, “Most Americans do not believe that the government bears the main burden of taking care of the poor. Asked who has the ‘greatest responsibility for helping the poor,’ just over one-third said that the government does. That figure has not budged in three decades.” Therefore, these two ideological viewpoints collide causing an individual to be set adrift without any hope of being rescued.
There are obvious limitations when being anchored by poverty and income disparities. When individuals are raised in low-income communities, the opportunity to rise above their disparity is less likely. Moreover, for those individuals raised in such communities, there is a higher probability that they may fall victim to their surroundings. Lauter explains that “poverty is likely to rise disproportionately among children, a special concern because brain science shows that early deprivation can leave lifelong scars. Children raised in poverty on average have worse adult health, lower earnings and higher incarceration rates.” Research has also indicated that any child raised in an economic depressed community has a greater likelihood of being introduced to a variety of narcotics, mind-altering substances and criminal behaviors. The inclination for many young people is to follow the path of least resistance.
Although poverty is not uncommonly the result of generational disparities, psychosocial environments, and community influences; there are other factors that may equally contribute to this cycle. Given our current pandemic, we know that there are a countless number of individuals who would be described falling under the guidelines of an episodic form of poverty. Episodic poverty is defined as an acute or immediate form of poverty due to the sudden loss of employment, loss of a contributing spouse, a sudden onset of an illness, major mechanical issues related to a vehicle, or a crisis that has a direct effect. Whereas, chronic poverty may be related to an individual’s physical, cognitive, psychological, or intellectual ability. In short, chronic poverty has a profound and often lasting effect upon one’s biopsychosocial environment. It is this ongoing relationship with poverty that causes one to be improvised on a continuum.
Poverty is never the ambition of an individual. Neither is being indebted, broke, or incapable of providing for oneself. The bleakness of poverty can sometimes feel insurmountable. The past few months have brought on many changes to the economic fabric of the global market. Even the corporate giants have been crushed by a wave of uncertainty. Is it any wonder that those who are already facing financial hardships may be in greater distress?
Turning the tide on poverty is not impossible. There is most assuredly going to be repercussions to our current financial calamity. Yet, we should not give up on our hopes, ambitions, and dreams. The pandemic may have caused a momentary pause, but we are capable of dreaming new dreams. We are capable of reaching for loftier heights. For children who were already facing economic hurdles, we must lend them a hand to move upward and forward. We must not rely upon just messages of inspiration, but opportunities of deliverance. We must be willing to share in the opportunities, and the common wealth of knowledge, if we ever desire to achieve true economic equality.
Poverty is a systemic issue that effects all races, ages, and intellectual quotient. Turning the tide of poverty is going to take an honest approach to resolving society’s various disparities. These hardships have not occurred overnight, nor can we completely blame the pandemic. We must be willing to have open and candid discussions about poverty. If so, we will be capable of not only shifting the economic barriers, but possibly preventing future generations from becoming impoverished.
Dr. Asa Don Brown is a prolific author, an engaging speaker, human rights advocate, and clinical psychologist. He serves as first responder in New York and he has held university faculty positions teaching incoming freshmen completing their graduate work. asadonbrown.com