Why is Poverty a Problem?

Poverty is a deeply interconnected and complex global problem with multiple issues and dimensions. There is no single cause of poverty. Effective methods for helping the poor address poverty issues from a holistic perspective.

Why is Poverty a Problem?

Image Details

A man walks on a mountain of trash at the dump. He carries a large white sack in one hand and tool to sift through trash in the other. He "shops at the mall" for home decorations as well as copper and plastic items to recycle. He earns $2 to $3 a day.

Image name: Why is Poverty a Problem?
File size: 8.2 MB
Photographer: Chuck Bigger
Date created: May 21, 2013
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8
Focal length: 170.00 mm
Exposure: 1/320 sec; f/9; ISO 200
Image size: 4256 × 2832
Resolution: 300.00 pixels per inch
Flash: Did not fire
Location: Brazil
A man walks on a mountain of trash at the dump. He carries a large white sack in one hand and tool to sift through trash in the other.

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The Problem of Poverty

Why is poverty a problem? The short answer is competing priorities, conflicts of interest, ignorance and apathy. But poverty is a multi-headed beast with many faces.

Exploitation and prejudice nurture poverty. Ineffective policies and flawed implementation by governments, non-governmental organizations and international agencies allow poverty to remain rooted. Political priorities vary by country and can change as leaders change. Commitments to agreements and efforts waver because of fluctuating resources, cost, interest and will.

Poverty is contextual. It requires a unified and collaborative approach across cultures, conditions and continents. Without it, efforts to end poverty in the world nibble around the edges of poverty, improving the lives of many poor people but failing to reach all of them.

"The 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets . . . seek to build on the Millennium Development Goals and complete what they did not achieve."
— Resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2015

Poverty is a problem that permeates society. It’s difficult to isolate one thing as the cause of poverty and impossible to identify one solution to direct all efforts toward. Instead, injustice, corruption, violence, disease and many other factors feed the beast while the world tries to feed the poor, stop human trafficking, improve literacy and access to education, achieve gender equality, ensure access to water and sanitation and bring prosperity to everyone.

The problem of poverty isn’t just a lack of money. Poverty hurts people economically while it also attacks them emotionally, physically and spiritually. This 360 degree assault of denied rights, marginalization and disadvantage breeds inequity.

Why is poverty a problem? It's because all of the above. Helping the poor is not a one and done endeavor. It's 17 goals with 169 targets. It's a multi-faceted, holistic, long-term effort to provide the poor opportunities to succeed physically, socially, economically and spiritually.

Image Details

A man walks on a mountain of trash at the dump. He carries a large white sack in one hand and tool to sift through trash in the other. He "shops at the mall" for home decorations as well as copper and plastic items to recycle. He earns $2 to $3 a day.

Image name: Why is Poverty a Problem?
File size: 8.2 MB
Photographer: Chuck Bigger
Date created: May 21, 2013
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8
Focal length: 170.00 mm
Exposure: 1/320 sec; f/9; ISO 200
Image size: 4256 × 2832
Resolution: 300.00 pixels per inch
Flash: Did not fire
Location: Brazil
A man walks on a mountain of trash at the dump. He carries a large white sack in one hand and tool to sift through trash in the other.

Request a License

Send us an email with the details of how you want to use the photo on this page, or any photo on PicturesofPoverty.com, and someone will get back to you to discuss a licensing agreement.

More Available Pictures Highlighting Poverty Issues

Compassion International is an Effective Solution to Poverty Problems

Compassion International was founded in 1952. Since then it has grown into one of the largest and most trusted charities in the United States. Forbes, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and The NonProfit Times each list Compassion as a top charity.

Over more than 60 years Compassion has revolutionized the fight against global poverty by working exclusively with the Church. It partners with thousands of local churches in communities throughout the developing world each of which run child development centers providing a minimum of 4-8 hours of programming each week, for at least 48 weeks a year.

At the centers, children in the Child Sponsorship Program receive:

  • health care and training, which includes exercise, regular physical exams, dental care, vaccinations, instruction in physical and dental hygiene, preventative health care and referrals for advanced medical care, if needed
  • snacks, meals and supplemental nutrition support
  • educational opportunities such as tuition to allow for school attendance or regular participation in alternative educational activities, as well as opportunities to learn life and job skills
  • social and emotional development — learning basic social skills, teamwork, art, drama, dance, etc.
  • materials and supplies including hygiene supplies (e.g., soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste), center supplies (e.g., paper, writing utensils, games, toys), fees or costs associated with field trips, camps, drama, art and dance activities
  • individualized care and attention: school progress reports, center attendance records, health records, home visits by social workers and adult supervision while at the development center

In 2013, an independent study published in the Journal of Political Economy empirically validated the effectiveness of Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program. The research found that Compassion-sponsored children were more likely than their non-sponsored counterparts to complete primary, secondary and tertiary education, and as adults, were more likely to be salaried employees, more likely to have white-collar jobs and more likely to be community leaders.

Compassion’s program remains the only child sponsorship program to be independently and empirically validated as effective, which is significant considering that a poll of top development economists rated child sponsorship the most effective long-term development intervention for helping the poor.1

  1. (Wydick, Bruce. “Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor.” Christianity Today. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/february/popular-strategies-helping-the-poor.html Accessed 17 February 2012)

PicturesofPoverty.com is presented by Compassion International