What Is the Cycle of Poverty, and How Is GFA Involved?

Answering the question, “What is the cycle of poverty?” may seem simple enough; the concept is somewhat intuitive and can be understood with relative ease. Breaking the cycle is another matter entirely. Millions of people around the world labor without hope, despairing that any change will ever come to their lives.

Globally, about 10 percent of the population—over 700 million people—fall below the international poverty line of living on $2.15 a day. While this number had been decreasing, the recent global pandemic has slowed progress. Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have both suffered immensely from this setback, and poverty’s grip has tightened in those areas.[1]

This information is regularly discussed, but what is the poverty cycle? The poverty cycle, or cycle of poverty, is a term used to describe the fact that poor families tend to stay poor for generations. If a child’s grandparents were poor and their parents are poor, the odds are strong that they will be poor as well.[2] The reasons poverty tends to be passed down like this are multifaceted and connected.

Living in poverty means there are many forces stacked against a person trying to get ahead. There is less access to education in impoverished areas, meaning fewer opportunities to secure higher-paying jobs in the future. Even if education is available, it can cost too much, and many families rely on children contributing income alongside their parents to survive and so would not be able to send them to school. People living in the poorest parts of the world may not have access to clean water or proper shelter, leaving them constantly susceptible to disease, which takes them out of school or work and costs money to treat. Not having enough food makes it harder to focus on school or complete a full day’s work, preventing a person from gaining an education or earning money and leaving them stuck in poverty. These factors, and many more, make it nearly impossible to escape poverty without a drastic change of circumstances.

With such a vicious circle, it is only natural to wonder how to break the cycle of poverty. Those stuck inside usually can’t pull themselves out; they need external help to forge a new path. Organizations like GFA World work to provide ways out of poverty. Our various programs seek to address what is the cycle of poverty, lift people out and give them hope for a better future, one that is unencumbered by the generational curse of poverty. And all this done in the name of Jesus Christ.

One effective way for families to escape poverty is through the gift of farm animals. A pig or cow or a pair of goats or chickens can be life-changing. Goats and cows provide nutrient-rich milk that can be consumed to improve sparse diets and sold for income; chickens lay eggs, which can be eaten or sold as well. Animals reproduce, which means the offspring can be sold or eaten. With more funds then available, families can begin to attend to areas which were neglected while they focused on just surviving, like healthcare and education. Farm animals move life trajectories from the endless cycle of poverty into a hopeful and worthwhile future.[3]

Farm animals are just one way to end poverty; another is through education. So, how can education break the cycle of poverty? According to The Science of Learning Blog, “education remains the key to escaping poverty.” [4] More schooling means more knowledge and skill, making someone more qualified for higher-paying jobs. A primary way GFA and other organizations provide education in impoverished areas is through child sponsorship programs. GFA’s program ensures that children receive vital assistance according ot the needs in the community, like education, nutritious food, healthcare, hygiene training, clean water, all at no cost.[5]

Child sponsorship may seem like just a drop in the bucket toward ending poverty, but research on Compassion International’s program shows that it is genuinely impactful to education and future employment. It was found that formerly sponsored children stayed in school for 1 to 1.5 years longer than unsponsored kids. Previously sponsored people were also 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary education and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education than their unsponsored peers. As a result, those who had been sponsored were 14 to 18 percent more likely to have salaried employment than those who had not been part of the sponsorship program.[6] Since GFA launched our own child sponsorship program in 2004, we have helped more than 142,000 children. In 2021 alone, 2,200 students in the program graduated from high school and began pursuing paths to better futures.[7]

Consider partnering with GFA to help make answering the question “What is the cycle of poverty?” a thing of the past. It doesn’t take much to change a life and end the cycle. You can provide farm animals that lift a family out of poverty for as little as $11 for a pair of chickens or $65 for a pair of pigs.[8] For just $35 a month, you can sponsor a child and set them on a new path leading away from the poverty cycle.[9]

Learn more about the effects of poverty

[1] “Ending Poverty.” United Nations. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/ending-poverty.
[2] Williams, Geoff. “The Cycle of Poverty and Its Traps that Keep You Poor.” U.S. News. March 8, 2023. https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-and-budgeting/articles/the-cycle-of-poverty-traps-that-keep-you-poor.
[3] Holt, Palmer. “A Surprising Antidote to World Poverty: Farm Animals.” GFA World. November 30, 2021. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/solutions-poverty-farm-animals/.
[4] Birdsong, Kristina. “10 Facts About How Poverty Impacts Education.” Fast Forword by Carnegie Learning. January 26, 2016. https://www.scilearn.com/10-facts-about-how-poverty-impacts-education/.
[5] “Sponsor a Child with GFA World.” GFA World. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://www.gfa.org/sponsorachild/.
[6] Margerison, Gemma. “You Can’t Argue with Numbers.” Christian Today Australia. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://christiantoday.com.au/news/you-cant-argue-with-numbers.html.
[7] Walker, Ken. “Child Sponsorship.” GFA World. November 18, 2022. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/does-sponsoring-child-really-work/.
[8] “Gifts from the Stable.” GFA World. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://www.gfa.org/donation/browse/items/from-the-stable/.
[9] “Sponsor a Child with GFA World.” GFA World. Accessed July 6, 2023. https://www.gfa.org/sponsorachild/.