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Literature Review: Global Problem of Poverty


Poverty is one of the leading global problems in contemporary society. It is one of the most pressing challenges that human beings are going through in the present day. Poverty has resulted in many social and economic problems across the globe, and the efforts to mitigate its effects have not triggered positive results yet. Poverty has limited the ability of individuals to reach their ultimate potential in life, and at the same time, it has handicapped the general development of society. Poverty as a global problem causes desperation and distress, and in fact, it has contributed to the increased rates of crimes across the globe. The poor people in the world often suffer undernourishment of a lot of essential things in life. Poor individuals do not have access to basic human needs and services such as food, safe water for drinking, electricity, education, health care, and other related needs. In order to find a solution to the problem in the future, there is a need to understand its causes and come up with strategies that will help limit it. It will therefore be important to conduct a detailed literature review on poverty as a global problem in order to understand what different authors have to say about its causes, effects, solutions, and ethical issues revolving around it.

Literature Review

Dixon (1998), hints that poverty is an obstinate challenge that has resulted in moral and political challenges in different societies across the globe. The author defines poverty as the basic lack of mechanisms and means of survival. Poor people are individuals who even in normal circumstances, cannot manage to clothe and feed themselves appropriately to the extent that they suffer health and death risks. Poverty can be described in either absolute or relative terms. Dixon (2018), hints that an analysis of empirical studies demonstrates that the concept of poverty as an absolute lack is of primary relevance in nations that have low per capita income and the rate of poverty is high. The author claims that in nations that are experiencing rapid development and an ostensible decrease in the cases of absolute poverty, poverty is defined in relative terms. The relative definition of poverty drifts away from a minimal, physical survival perception to a relative direction where the focus is placed on the quality of life that even the poor members of society should afford.

Dixon (2018), claims that the aspect of relative poverty is a controversial one and the debate on poverty is in almost all parts of the world. There are a lot of ethical issues that arise when the concept of poverty is mentioned among them we have the question of whether there are specific parties and entities that are charged with the responsibility of remedying the challenge of poverty. Dixon (2018), sheds light on whether remedying the problem of poverty is an ethical responsibility of charitable organizations, a communal responsibility, or a government role. The author claims that a global comprehension of poverty needs to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that there are major patterns of customs and traditions, cultural differences, and social expectations that aid in the determination of the parameters within which choice is made, and the priorities that people will respond to. In a nutshell, the author of the book has focused much on defining different forms of poverty, society’s comprehension of poverty, and the ethical issues that arise regarding the challenge of poverty.

According to Brady (2019), there are a lot of facts and opinions that have been presented concerning the global problem of poverty such as the number and composition of individuals who occupy the lower tail, however, there is limited information or explanation through a theoretical framework concerning how this problem comes into existence. The author claims that the only way a perfect answer to the global challenge of poverty can be found is by coming up with more complete models and theories regarding the processes of income generation and distribution. It is deemed that even in cases where theories of poverty are developed, they are always compared against null hypotheses that lack effect. There are few studies that have attempted to strike a comparison of two poverty theories against one another, and in fact, most poverty research offers normative or descriptive claims without rendering a valid description of the problem.

Brady (2019), claims that theoretical progress on the aspect of poverty has been inhibited since research in the areas is extremely fragmented. The author claims that there is a minimal interdisciplinary and global conversation on the matter even though research is present in most countries and in different disciplines. According to the behavioral theory of poverty, some individuals are poor because they involve themselves in poverty increasing practices like unemployment, racism, and single parenthood. Brady (2019), emphasizes the need for individuals to embrace ethical behaviors in society such as staying in their marriages, and avoiding racism and discrimination in order to fight the challenge of poverty. The author hints that poverty can be mitigated by encouraging individuals in developing countries to embrace expanding their education arrays and reducing fertility rates. It has been emphasized that education, especially among young women in society is a powerful weapon against poverty across the globe. It, therefore, suffices to mention that the author of the source has focused on urging nations and societies across the globe to embrace ethical behaviors that can help mitigate poverty.

Livingston et al. (2020), focus on drawing a connection between poverty and inequalities within society, and further claim that racial and gender inequality is one of the causes of poverty. The authors hint that the development of poverty within the societies occupied by people of color is because of macroeconomic policies, class systems, and institutionalized ethnic and gender discrimination. It is argued that slavery, past and present-day brutality, together with institutional racism continue to affect the living conditions of black people in a negative way. The authors attempt to demonstrate that poverty within the Black American communities can only be mitigated if the society and the entire nation embrace the ethical principle of equality for all regardless of their gender or race. Research demonstrates that women with less educational levels have fewer chances of first marriage and women of color in general have lower probabilities of getting married because of the limited presence of unmarried men within the marriage market. The authors go further to hint that financial factors tend to affect marriage for white and black women.

According to, Livingston et al. (2020), scarcity and poverty result in psychological distress which depletes essential cognitive resources. There is a great connection between low-wage employees and limited education, which implies that the attainment of less education is a cause of poverty. Therefore, in order to remedy the global challenge of poverty, it is prudent to embrace the idea of increasing school retention and training operations in order to increase the chances of low-income workers and families to land better jobs and earn better salaries. Livingston et al. (2020), further assert that there is a great link between income inequalities and capitalism and that a capitalist system can trigger increased poverty rates because it encourages and allows freedom to choose, self-interest, market mechanisms, and limited interference from the government. In a capitalist society, the rich individuals within the chain tend to exploit the poor by drawing labor from them, and as a result, they continue becoming rich at the expense of the poor persons.

Schweiger (2019), avers that there is a great connection between harm, vulnerability, and ethics, especially in regard to the lives of poor children. Vulnerability is not an ethical or normative concept but descriptively it has some connection with ethics. It is important to understand and appreciate the fact that children in poverty deserve a lot of protection, and it is the first dimension of situational and inherent vulnerability that should not be forgotten. The author claims that poverty is a situational vulnerability in the lives of children since as opposed to being an inherent problem, poverty is a social phenomenon. Children in poverty tend to suffer from a lot of problems and they often lack a lot of important things such as housing, food, clothes, and sanitation. The deprivations that poor children suffer from can be translated into psychological, isolation, behavioral and social harm.

According to Schweiger (2019), poverty can have a temporal or permanent dimension, this is because it can be short-term, long-term or it can happen to be chronic. The creation of situational vulnerabilities and the unfolding of different harms as a result of poverty which affects the lives of children is against ethical and moral obligations. There is a need for parents and society at large to embrace strategies and practices that promote the general well-being and well-becoming of all children. Schweiger (2019), attempts to demonstrate that no child should be raised in poverty such that they can lack access to basic human needs because this can affect them during their entire childhood and even after they have grown up. It is posited that parents might have an influence or bear the blame for making their children grow up in poverty. This is because parents might have made bad financial and family organization decisions, or they might have left their children deprived when they had an alternative means of helping them.

Stober (2019), argues that poverty is not a mistake or fault of the people living in poverty, and aspects such as excess fertility are not the actual causes of poverty; instead they are the results of poverty. The author claims that countries that suffer from high rates of poverty tend to lack six key forms of capital investment which include; business capital, human capital, natural capital, public institutional capital, and knowledge capital. It is deemed that countries with poor education and health systems tend to suffer more from extreme cases of poverty. Stober (2019), further states that escaping the poverty trap is a difficult thing and it is more than being able to meet the needs of the present day. Escaping the poverty trap implies that an entity or an individual has the ability to meet the future unexpected demands or the present investment for purposes of future turnover.

Stober (2019), goes further to claim that female education is a determinant of poverty lines and that embracing education helps in evacuating people from the allure of poverty. The author suggests that the level of women’s education within society is one of the critical predictors of the number of children that certain families should have. Statistics demonstrate that less educated women and girls have a higher possibility of having a higher number of children compared to when women who are highly educated (Stober, 2019). The author claims that women with a master’s degree are most likely to have a maximum of three children since they need to make certain sacrifices in order to accommodate some of their desired lifestyles and career prospects. Besides, educated women are always conversant about the financial impacts that come with bringing up children.

Wietzke (2020), posits that there is a significant link that exists between poverty, fertility, and inequality. It is argued that faster economic advancement in the past decades of the 20th century was often linked with quick movements out of the allure of poverty in third-world countries. The author avers that several studies have offered sufficient evidence of differences in fertility between the poor and the non-poor. Evaluation of more than 600 household surveys from third-world countries observes that the major predictors of high fertility rates, such as extreme female education gaps and agricultural employment tend to be rigorous among people who are extremely poor. It is prudent to mention that high fertility rates are associated with extreme poverty and therefore, the moral and ethical practice that should be embraced in order to counter the increased cases of poverty in third-world countries is the minimization of fertility rates.

According to Wietzke (2020), the idea that approximated influence of fertility rates on poverty operates primarily via a distributional channel implies that the best way to reconcile the existing concerns about population dynamics is through the rights-and justice-based strategies. The results demonstrate that the present focus on reproductive and women’s rights in global advancement objectives can be an essential mechanism to speed up the aspect of economic development and advancement into poverty reduction. The author equally suggests that there is a need for countries and societies that have been affected by extreme cases of poverty to shift towards a more conceptualized and multidimensional analysis of poverty in order to find an effective solution. It is important to harmonize people about the importance of management of fertility rates and educational inequalities as a way of dealing with poverty.


In conclusion, poverty is a major challenge in contemporary society that needs quick and well-framed approaches to address it. The above studies have focused on shedding light on the major causes of poverty among them being high rates of fertility, inequalities, and lack of education. For example, Wietzke, (2020) and Stober (2019) emphasize the importance of education for all genders as a means to counter poverty rates in developed and developing countries. Brandy (2019) has equally emphasized the importance of coming up with well-developed theoretical frameworks that can help enhance the comprehension of the causes and processes of the development of poverty. The government, charitable groups, wealthy people, and other persons within the society have the ethical and moral responsibility of helping those languishing in poverty. The existing gap in the literature is that it has not provided for the processes and initiatives that were taken by some of the developed countries across the globe to get out of the poverty trap.


Brady, D. (2019). Theories of the Causes of Poverty. Annual Review of Sociology45, 155-175.

Dixon, J. (1998). Poverty: A Persistent Global Reality.

Livingston, V., Davis-Wagner, D., Chung, I., Nevels, B. J., & Gabriel, N. (2020). Trapped in poverty: a conceptual framework to evaluate the culture of poverty vs. the culture of inequality for black female-headed families. International Journal of Social Policy and Education, 2(5), 1–13.

Schweiger, G. (2019). Ethics, poverty and children’s vulnerability. Ethics and social welfare13(3), 288-301.

Wietzke, F. B. (2020). Poverty, inequality, and fertility: the contribution of demographic change to global poverty reduction. Population and Development Review46(1), 65-99.


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