How Does Poverty Affect society?

How does poverty affect society? Poverty has far-reaching consequences. It doesn’t just paralyze individuals and families; it paralyzes entire societies.

Social poverty


Poverty negatively effects people’s relationships with friends and families. It often excludes people from participating in society, including decision making in civil, social and cultural life. This leads to withdrawal and shame as a result of not being able to fit in.

“Those who are poor have worse social relationships and participate less in political life and in organizations,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information.[1] “… In short, low incomes prevent the poor from living a life in ‘decency.’”

Poor health


Both children and adults who suffer from poverty have higher rates of mortality and illness, as well as increased mental health conditions.[2] Infants born into poverty often have low birth weight, which contributes to preventable physical and mental disabilities; they also tend to be more prone to illness and are more likely to die within 12 months.[3] They’re also twice as likely to have impaired vision and hearing, anemia and high levels of lead in their bloodstreams, which can impair their brains.[4]

Both physical and mental health problems prevent people from fully participating in society, be it through work, job or stress-reducing recreation. When individuals in a community suffer, the entire society declines.

People who are poor often can’t afford medical care, and often family members who might otherwise take care of them cannot because they have to make money to buy food.

All of this causes incredible stress, which can lead to conflict between parents and children. For example, children may be forced to work to help feed their siblings rather than attend school.

Educational poverty


Children raised in poor families miss school more often due to illness. Sometimes, they don’t attend school at all because of lack of money. Either they’re working to help support the family, or their parents can’t afford to pay for supplies and education. Even when children can attend school, poverty negatively impacts learning. Chronic stress associated with poverty—not to mention physical illness—adversely affects concentration and memory,[5] which is essential to learning.

When children don’t have proper educational and health foundations and adults can’t even obtain clean water, sanitation or enough food, the effect of poverty on society compounds. The good news is: There are interventions regarding the complex question of how does poverty affect society.

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[1] Mood, C. and Jonsson, J. O. “The social consequences of poverty: An empirical test on longitudinal data.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4863915/. May 17, 2015.
[2] “Poverty and Child Welfare.” OACAS Library Guides. https://oacas.libguides.com/c.php?g=702168&p=4992460. Accessed February 1, 2022.
[3] “Sociology.” CliffsNotes. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/sociology/social-and-global-stratification/causes-and-effects-of-poverty. Accessed February 1, 2022.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Effects of Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness on Children and Youth.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/pi/families/poverty. Accessed February 1, 2022.