What Is the Cause of Poverty?

What Is the Cause of Poverty? Education Is Key

Millions of people worldwide live in extreme poverty. With so many people in need on our planet, we have to ask ourselves, What is the cause of poverty? Thankfully, many organizations, agencies and governments have been asking that question, not just to be informed but to help solve the deep, underlying issues that face a large segment of the world’s population.

The good news is that poverty is solvable. Researchers and nonprofit organizations are willing to look closely at the lives of the 656 million people living in extreme poverty, defined by living on less than $2.15 per day. Though these millions live in different countries, climates, governmental systems and cultures, there are common threads that can be observed in each people group.

A key factor in cycles of need is how lack of education causes poverty. Can a person just work harder without an education and escape poverty? Not in most of the places where poverty has a grip. Research has proven time and again that the inability to read, write and do basic math are solid barriers against moving out of the $2.15 per day range.[2]

“All children should be able to read by age 10,” reports The World Bank. “Reading is a gateway for learning as the child progresses through school—and conversely, an inability to read slams that gate shut… And although it is possible to learn later in life with enough effort, children who don’t read by age 10—or at the latest, by the end of primary school—usually fail to master reading later in their schooling career.”[3]

Yet, you may ask, is lack of education a cause of poverty? The World Bank goes on to make the connection: “Without foundational learning, students often fail to thrive later in school or when they join the workforce. They don’t acquire the human capital they need to power their careers and economies once they leave school, or the skills that will help them become engaged citizens and nurture healthy, prosperous families. Importantly, a lack of foundational literacy skills in the early grades can lead to intergenerational transmission of poverty and vulnerability. As a major contributor to human capital deficits, the learning crisis undermines sustainable growth and poverty reduction.”[4]

To understand how lack of education is a cause of poverty, let’s follow the story of Rondale. He was a teen in South Asia who didn’t see the need for an education. In fact, he would skip classes to go hang out with his friends. He had no desire to invest in studying or in a future of more education. Why should he study hard and miss time with his friends when he could always just work on his father’s farm? After all, Rondale’s father did not have an education.[5]

His parents were deeply grieved that he did not understand the value of an education. They had already enrolled their daughter in GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program, where she got help with her studies, as well as practical assistance like meals, toiletries and other basic needs. Rondale’s family may have had a farm, but his father’s lack of education meant he could not pursue anything but manual labor. His parents understood that not being educated can trap a person in poverty. One answer to the question of What is the cause of poverty? is a lack of education.

Rondale’s parents, and even his little sister, asked for him to be entered into GFA’s program for children, where he would be sponsored by a supporter from far away who believed he could do more with his life than hang out with friends.

GFA’s Child Sponsorship Program is focused on helping children and teens like Rondale see the value and fulfillment of pursuing their education as far as they can. Our staff who run these programs invest deeply in helping the children they work with develop good habits that serve them for a lifetime. 

Rondale joined the program, and the trajectory of his life changed. He appreciated the daily meals, was helped by the tutoring and slowly began to glimpse new possibilities for his future opening up. Rondale and his sister both graduated from the sponsorship program, and his sister even went on to university. Rondale was able to study as a car mechanic because of his ability to read, write and do math. He now supplements his family’s income with this work while also helping his father on the farm.

What is the cause of poverty? It is never being given the opportunity to learn and grow and thrive. Our program gave Rondale and his sister that opportunity. Not only did it keep both of them from eking out a living on $2.15 per day, but it also lifted their parents and their future families up from the kind of need that defines poverty.

You can be the person from far away who knows that each child is worth investing in for the future, not only for themselves, but also for their families and their communities. For just $35 a month, you can be the one who helps someone like Rondale create a better future. The care and attention our workers give these children is the best investment of all. Sponsor a child today and create a better future for someone.

Learn more about 5 ways to reduce poverty

[1] “Extreme poverty, 2015-2022.” The World Bank. Accessed June 30, 2023. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty
[2] Adiseshiah, Malcolm S. “Illiteracy and Poverty. Literacy Lessons.” ERIC. 1990. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED321032&ssp=1&setlang=en-PH&safesearch=moderate.
[3] “What is learning poverty?” The World Bank. April 28, 2021. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/brief/what-is-learning-poverty
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Wayward Teen Finds Purpose.” GFA World. March 2023. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/wayward-teen-finds-purpose-wfr23-03b