How Poverty Begets Poverty

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I have lived, worked, and volunteered in America’s inner-city, and have heard the accounts of those living in tragically impoverished nations. One thing that I have found more often than not is that poverty begets poverty. I do challenge the baseless assumption that people are poor primarily because they are born poor. I, however, acknowledge, that as easy as it is for the rich to throw their fortunes away in a single bad investment or night of indulgence, it is equally to difficult to escape the clutches of poverty.

Studies have shown that it tends to be those on the lower-income bracket who are more likely to give in to vices from cigarettes to lottery tickets and are even more susceptible to substance abuse. It would seem the poor are unhappy and desperate to escape their impoverished lives either through blissful forgetfulness only a forbidden substance can bring. Others turn to false hope given by the one in almost infinity chance that this one impulse buy, this one pointless gamble, this one waste of money just might be a “winner” after all, you’ve got to be “in it to win it”

Other studies have shown that the poor spend more, as a percentage of their income, on luxury items than the rich do. The primary culprit: prepared foods. The poor work more, they live busier lifestyles. If you are not relying on charity and help from family and friends chances are, in the U.S, you are working. An extra shift at work or a second job does help pay the bills, but it also takes a toll. Who feels like cooking after another late night when it’s so much easier to order Chinese? Not only that but the poor seem to be constantly plagued by the mindset of being stuck in the “here and now”

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck little is more frightening than sinking a large amount of money into a single purchase. Psychologically, $8 for breakfast just seems cheaper at the time than $75 for a week’s groceries, but you constantly live only for the “now” you tend lean on the smaller purchase in the short term. This is just one way the poor continue to stay poor but by constantly being plagued by bad spending habits because of living in this state.

Most people who would describe themselves accurately as “poor” don’t know the meaning of the word “savings”. Who has the money to save when the gas bill, the electric bill, and rent are due from one paycheck, and the car payment, internet, and auto insurance bill are due from the other? When you are poor you don’t have extra money to use to plan ahead. Because of this, there are no savings, no long-term investments, and the poor never have any reason to plan ahead for future goals.

Another thing that seems to plague the poor is a lack of financial management and planning. Studies have shown that those who monitor their finances regularly manage them better and are less prone to impulsive spending and other poor financial decisions. Those who have little don’t want to be bothered by how little they have. We tend to avoid, and even deny what we regard as unpleasant and for that reason, it is only natural those dwelling in poverty would have an aversion to monitoring their money in an era of mobile and home internet apps that make doing so easier than ever.

Poverty has also been shown to have a connection in crime. The poorer the neighborhood the more crime-ridden it often becomes, and this has been shown to be true of entire countries. This may be because of desperation or it may be because of despair, or perhaps a blend of both. With crime and violence come uncertainty and economic instability and create conditions that make it impossible to travel to a job or to operate an honest business.

Poverty, as much as wealth and power, have been shown to corrupt and ruin entire nations, as can be seen in the corruption of governments in impoverished countries in Africa that turn to extortion of their own people to address their economic and financial woes.

The final problem of extreme poverty is that it leaves no time or space for thoughts of innovation or change. When one is poor and desperate he or she lives from day to day searching for the means to survive now. There is no time to pursue other things or to draw up plans for future endeavors. This is why the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

One cannot plan for future feasts when they cannot even be sure they will eat today, and because of this, the poor stay poor not because their pocketbooks are empty but because their minds are forever trapped in this impoverished state. I would be lying if I said I have not fallen into its snare myself.
The problem of poverty then is not found in birth, one is not born into it so much as trapped in it. It is not then that whoever is born poor will forever be poor, but whoever found himself even once in a place of poverty may find no means of escape.

And yet, there are those who do…

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