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The Social Impacts of Poverty (And What We Can Do)

The struggle with global poverty affects millions of people every day. Those living in poor conditions face emotional and physical stresses that impact the entire family and community. Those affected have fewer resources and opportunities to benefit from educational opportunities, social services, and employment opportunities.

Global Poverty has a tremendous impact on society that shouldn’t be overlooked. Poverty is such a far-reaching problem that it’s numerous impacts on every aspect of our lives, from the environment to education.

It’s Not Just About Money

Being poor means more than just not having money. It also means being cut off from key institutions and resources that could help one escape poverty.

Taken together, these factors can create a vicious cycle of global poverty that’s difficult to break out of.

According to the World Bank, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty worldwide fell to a new low of 10 percent in 2015 – the latest figure available – down from 11 percent in 2013, reflecting steady but slow progress. The number of people living on less than $1.90 a day fell by 68 million to 736 million over the period.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is a term used when people don’t have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food in sufficient quantities to lead healthy and active lives.

Food security occurs when all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences and enables them to be healthy people.

Poverty and extreme poverty have serious implications for hunger and malnutrition.

Hunger and malnutrition are closely linked: Both are caused by food insecurity, which results from not having access to sufficient food or money to buy it. Food insecurity, in turn, can lead to malnutrition, which in turn contributes to starvation. Those most affected by malnutrition tend to be the most vulnerable members of society: poor children under five and pregnant women top the list, but the elderly – especially those over 60 – aren’t far behind.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty has many social impacts on hygiene and sanitation.

The most immediate impact of poverty is the lack of water and sanitation facilities.

Since most people living in extreme poverty cannot afford drinking water, they rely on rivers, lakes, ponds, and other freshwater sources for their daily needs such as cooking, cleaning, and bathing. This can lead to waterborne diseases, typhoid and cholera because these water sources are often contaminated.

The lack of toilets and clean water can also contribute to other health problems such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid, and polio.

These problems may not seem serious at first glance because they seem to be related only to the social class living in a different household. However, in developing countries, the lack of toilets and sanitation is a major public health risk factor.

Poor Health

Poverty affects the health of both adults and children.

A mix of poor nutrition, lack of access to health care, and living in a dangerous neighborhood can negatively impact overall health.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that impacts poverty. TB is an infectious disease that most commonly attacks the lungs. According to the World Health Organization, “a total of 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 214,000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious cause of death after COVID -19 (before HIV/AIDS).

An infected person can pass on the bacteria that cause TB when they cough, sneeze or spit. Breathing infected droplets puts others at risk of contracting TB.

The bacteria then attack the lungs and can also affect other organs in the body, such as the kidneys, spine, and brain. The lungs are most commonly affected because they have a large number of susceptible cells available for infection.

Some people living in poverty don’t even realize how bad their situation is because they’re so used to it. Take a moment to really think about what your life might be like if you lived in a different social class.

Living in poverty causes many people to be exhausted more often than people who don’t live in poverty. They can’t afford basic needs like food, housing, and transportation.

This means not only that their work suffers from a lack of energy, but also that they can’t keep up with their children’s activities and play with them as much.

Mental Health Challenges

The social effects of poverty can result from the stress and anxiety of not knowing where your next meal is coming from or the mental health problems that can result from living in a world where you’ve to struggle to survive every day.

Temptations like drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are more common in poor communities. They’re more common because these products are seen as a way to escape the harsh realities of life.

Impossible Educational Attainment

Education is a social determinant of child development and poverty reduction.

In developing countries, people are affected by child poverty because from early childhood, they lack basic needs such as education (primary school and high school) which is inadequate and of low quality, because social conditions are poor, and so on.

Children and young people are the most affected by poverty.

Every year, millions of children drop out of school because their parents are unable to pay for their education. This affects not only the child, but also his or her family, community, and the country as a whole.

The causes of child poverty vary from place to place. In some countries, there are economic crises and people lose their jobs or become unemployed because businesses close. Other countries are hit by natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes that hinder development and push people into poverty.

There are several effects of poverty on education:


Because of their poverty, low-income families from developing countries don’t have access to social assistance and cannot afford to send their young children to high school every day.

Classroom environment

Poor children don’t have the means to buy the stationery needed for schooling, such as notebooks, pencils, etc. Childhood poverty often leads to social exclusion for poor children and income inequality later in life.

Anti-Social Behavior

Anti-social behavior is a risk factor in our society today. The cause is poverty, but lack of education and social exclusion can also be blamed. The more people are educated and involved in society, the less antisocial they become.

People who engage in antisocial behavior often do so because of their background, such as growing up in poverty and feel they’ve nowhere to go or no one to turn to.

Anti-social behavior includes littering, noise pollution, littering, aggressive behavior, and vandalism. Each of these behaviors can cause frustration in the community and harm the environment. Anti-social behavior affects all of us, from the person who’s affected to those who witness it.


Poor families may have to make sacrifices that are unthinkable to others. For example, they may be forced to move into a dangerous neighborhood because it’s cheaper than other neighborhoods and they can get by.

The lack of inclusion often leads them to think that they’re worth nothing. People who feel they aren’t worth anything don’t respect themselves and are more unlikely to respect others or their property. This can sometimes lead them to use violence because they believe it’s the only way to gain value and survive. Violence begets violence and this continues until someone puts an end to it.

Poorer areas also have fewer police, which leads to more crime and violence than wealthier areas. This is why there’s more crime in poor areas.

Powerless Victims

The impact of poverty on the powerless is devastating.

People living in poverty tend to have less access to lawyers and thus less able to defend themselves when they need to. They often live in areas where crime is rampant and may be victimized by other criminals. When they’re victimized, their lack of credibility makes it difficult for them to prosecute their attackers.


Housing problems are the main reason people become homeless. When poverty increases, homelessness follows.

Impoverished families don’t have an easy time finding a roof over their heads. Housing costs continue to rise while wages stagnate and unemployment remains high.

Once a low-income family falls into homelessness, it can be nearly impossible to get back on their feet. Most homeless parents have jobs, but they earn so little that they can no longer afford housing. They often end up in substandard housing or living in cramped quarters with friends or relatives, exposing them to poor health outcomes and other problems.

Child Development

The first year of life is a crucial period for brain development. Poor nutrition, lack of stimulation, and other poverty-related factors can lead to irreversible damage or delays in child development.

In developed countries, children who grow up in poor families are less likely to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports or other social activities.

Children who grow up in poor environments are also at higher risk factors for poor health, anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems than children who don’t grow up in such environments. Young children living in poverty are also at greater risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect.

According to the World Health Organization:

Nearly 3 in 4 children – or 300 million children – ages 2 to 4 regularly suffer physical punishment and/or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers” and “A child who’s abused is more likely to abuse others as an adult, so the violence is passed from one generation to the next. Therefore, it’s important to break this cycle of violence to have a positive impact on multiple generations.


Our Future

Income inequality is a social determinant for our society. It’s been a pervasive problem in the past and continues to be so today. When a society is affected by poverty, it cannot develop optimally. Without sufficient resources, there’s hardly enough wealth to support future generations.

In remote rural areas, where poverty is often prevalent, it can be difficult to find social assistance and human services. In some developing countries, there’s no social protection.

Therefore, poor low-income families living in social exclusion struggle to have access to health outcomes and educational attainment (or even just high school), widening the achievement gap and keeping the risk factor of remaining on the poverty line high.

The Effects of Poverty Have a Major Impact on the Future of Humanity

Many children living below the poverty line are less likely to receive adequate nutrition and health care, which negatively impacts their development and future.

A child living in a poor area in a developing region (eg: South Asia, Africa) is more likely to contract diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria than children living in wealthier households. These children are also more likely to be malnourished, which can lead to stunted growth and delayed development. They will be less productive as adults and contribute less to their country’s economic development.

In addition, people living in poverty don’t have access to the technologies and luxuries enjoyed by those living above the poverty line. Poverty creates feelings of helplessness and loss of control, which can lead to depression. This in turn leads people to act violently against others or themselves. This violence can take many forms, such as suicide bombings, riots, or even domestic violence.

Effects of Poverty on Society as a Whole

The effects of poverty on society as a whole are many. Although it’s often overlooked, economic hardship can affect many aspects of our society. The economy suffers from declining income levels, as many people living in poverty cannot afford to purchase goods and services in the economy.

This leads to lower revenues for businesses, which in turn can lead to a decrease in employment opportunities and eventually recession cycles.

Poverty also affects the education system, as young children from impoverished families are more likely to receive a poor education. As a result, they’re less competitive and earn less money than those who’ve received a good education. Finally, because of their financial hardship, the poor often have fewer resources available to them, such as limited access to physical and mental health services.

How We Can Contribute to Poverty Reduction

The fight against poverty is the responsibility of all.

It can only be solved through solidarity, especially with the poor and vulnerable, but also among all people.

Solidarity is a binding commitment that presupposes that we recognize our common humanity and our common destiny. It’s a spontaneous reaction of those who recognize that the social exclusion of others hurts them; it’s what makes life in society possible.

The poor aren’t numbers or statistics.

  • By protecting life in all its stages, from conception to natural death, we create a more just world for all.
  • By assisting the sick and elderly, we create a more humane society for all.
  • By providing basic education and training, especially for young people – including migrants and refugees – we’ll build a more prosperous society for all.
  • By defending the dignity of women and children and promoting their access to education, work, and health care, we’ll build communities of hope for future generations.
  • By working together and showing solidarity in a spirit of generosity

Related: Is Community Building a Skill

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