Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Poverty: A Result of Structural Inequality

Image created by Carolyn Chelsie
Who wants to be poor? According to the United Nations’ Report, 55% of the world’s population cannot access social protection, 122 women for every 100 men of the same age group are living in extreme poverty, and climate change is increasing poverty of low-income countries. The poverty scenario is devastating. No one wishes to live in poverty. Thousands of organizations are trying to end poverty for a long time. The complex reality of poverty is a call to analyze why poverty increases instead of decreases. Although some people believe that poverty is inevitable and the poor don’t do enough, poverty has roots in the current structural inequality that can be solved by the empowerment of women and protecting the environment. 

If poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the end of poverty is possible. First,  every citizen should recognize that poverty has economic reasons as the principal determinant of the cycle of poverty (Foster). Everyone can see the difference between the rich and the poor. For instance, the Oxfam Report explains that 85 people have more wealth than half of all the population in the world (Foster). This information should be uncomfortable because these systems are enabling an elite to accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of others. A wealthy elite is an outrageous reality. It shows how economic systems are unequal.  In addition, there are some places that have eradicated poverty. Countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland have achieved levels of equity for their citizens. Their government model focuses on social security and employment (Hodgson). The governments have a commitment to work against poverty as a central part of their strategy. In conclusion, poverty is not an abstract situation; poverty has real faces and places. Therefore poverty is a failure of the systems, which means the inequality of the economy should be changed. This gap can't be resolved without the will to build more solidarity economies.

If poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the mistaken belief that the poor are lazy can be overcome. First of all, who are the poor? What is the face of poverty? Where do they live? Identifying the marginalized groups is not hard. For example, 45.8% of black children under 6 years live below poverty, compared to 14.5% of white children in the United States (State of Working America). Most of the poor are women, blacks, and indigenous people; but of course, the most disadvantaged groups would vary from country to country. The relationship between discrimination and poverty is evident. It is crucial to identify structural discrimination in “neutral” policies that have disproportional impacts. Neutral policies try not to be discriminatory but in practice they are. In the same way, it is clear that there are low wages. The problem is not that people don’t work enough, the problem is that they are underpaid. It happens everywhere even if the country is considered rich or developed. To illustrate, according to Stephen Pimpare, poverty is common in the United States. It is not a consequence of irresponsibility or immorality. He supported the results of the Census Bureau which shows that one-third of residents in the United States fall below the poverty line at least once for 2 or 3 months (Pimpare). To sum up, briefly, breaking up poverty has to look at the discrimination and low wages. Ending poverty doesn’t depend just on the poor’ efforts. It has to be addressed from structural systems. 

When poverty is recognized as structural inequality, the systems of privilege will disappear. A system of privilege refers to keeping advantages for some and disadvantages for others. It forms part of the social structure and makes it unfair for marginalized groups. In light of the above, education and health care are the major forms of the system of privilege.  Populations in poor areas receive an inferior education than populations in wealthier areas.  For instance, in the system of privilege a child must attend an underdeveloped public school or a girl is guided toward caregiving instead of leadership. Under those circumstances, the child doesn’t have equal preparation to excel. The females often assume roles that are subordinate. By the same token, health care in the system of privilege is unequal. The poor cannot cover their medical costs. In fact, according to Shervin Assari, 13.5% of the poor in the United States would be victims of the proposed modification of health care. Accordingly, poor people will not be able to attend to their health on time or they will incur debts. As shown above, the system of privilege stymies the concept that all groups have equal access to universal health care and education. 

The solution to poverty has to address structural inequality by promoting women’s rights and environmental care. The current structural systems unfairly affect the living conditions of the poor and it should be changed. As Shervin Assari indicated, the end of poverty requires structural changes. This is non-negotiable.  To be specific, first, women empowerment can break poverty because women have a crucial role in society. The government must work toward eliminating gender disparity and promoting women's rights.  One example would be removing gender stereotypes from books. Equally, all countries should train in sustaining the environment. The environment sustains us with a variety of resources. But in the last few years, the world has suffered from different environmental problems more often than before, such as floods, forest fires, and other natural disasters. The global population must put more pressure on the forces that exploit the environment. It is necessary to find ways to protect diversity and local populations. Working on sustainability is an assignment for all.   

In conclusion, poverty is erasable; it is a result of structural inequality and it can not be overcome individually. Organizations, governments, and citizens must work together. It is time to hear the cry of the poor and the earth (Pope Francis). I believe that humanity has the power to end poverty, but we need the will of the whole community. We'll see the change. I believe that we’ll find a way to work as global citizens, like one family.  


Assari, Shervin. “Why Poverty Is Not a Personal Choice, but a Reflection of Society.” The Conversation, 24 Dec. 2019,

Foster, Dawn. “Why Poverty Isn't Inevitable.” New Humanist, 2015,
“Goal 1: End Poverty in All Its Forms Everywhere - United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations, United Nations,

Hodgson, Geoffrey M. “What the World Can Learn about Equality from the Nordic Model.” The Conversation, 18 Feb. 2020,

Pimpare, Stephen. “Analysis | Laziness Isn't Why People Are Poor. And iPhones Aren't Why They Lack Health Care.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 8 Mar. 2017,

Pope, Franciscus. “Laudato Si' (24 May 2015): Francis.” Laudato Si' (24 May 2015) | Francis, 24 May 2015,

“Poverty.” State of Working America, 2010,

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