Poverty Mentality

What is Poverty? Poverty is a psychological mindset that is a major part of our generational curse. It’s a “survival mentality’ that keeps us in a mental and physical state of dependence. What is poverty? According to the U.S Census Bureau any household that brings in $ 17,062 annually is impoverished. So that means $20,000 annually is barely over the poverty line according to the federal government.

The United Nations says poverty is the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

The World Bank says poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life. A person deprived of things that everyone around him has is likely to suffer a sense of inadequacy, a loss of dignity and self-respect.

Alice O’ Conner claims that poverty has been neutralized ”by keeping the focus on the characteristics of poor people rather than on the economy, politics and society more broadly construed. People in poverty don’t have access to nutritious foods they eat the foods that are within proximity to their home. In communities where poverty is prominent malnutrition is a normally found. The poverty mentality affects our self identity, self esteem, self confidence, self concept and self knowledge which affects our relationships with ourselves and each other.

Poverty is measured by absolute, secondary or relative. According to Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or abject poverty is “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services. Robert says that it is “a condition limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency.”

Absolute poverty is when household income is below a certain level, which makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, shelter, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc. Absolute poverty compares households based on a set income level and this level varies from country to country depending on its overall economic conditions

Secondary poverty is when people earn just enough money to afford the necessities, but spend part of it on “coping mechanisms” to deal with financial and work-related stress (high risk and/or difficult working conditions due to abuse and long hours) and therefore end up struggling to make ends meet thus placing them below the poverty line ultimately. Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. In simple terms, poverty is not having enough money or access to resources to enjoy a decent standard of living; be that the lack of access to healthcare, education or water and sanitation facilities etc.

Relative poverty is when households receive 50% less than average household incomes, so they do have some money but still not enough money to afford anything above the basics necessities. Statistics worldwide back the conclusion, that people born into poverty are much more likely to remain poor. Some people might escape it, but for the majority, hard work isn’t the solution when the economic system works against them. This is what constitutes the cycle of poverty.


That’s why finding a definition of relative or absolute poverty isn’t simple since it doesn’t just involve economics, but it is also affected by society and politics. So since we now know poverty is a measurable concept. Can we over come this psychological state of oppression? How can we show people that they are in poverty? What steps can we take to break this generational curse of poverty?

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Great leaders quotes on the state of Poverty. . .

“We think sometimes the poverty is only, hungry, naked, homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and un-cared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. -Mother Teresa

You cannot tackle hunger, disease and poverty unless you can provide people with an ecosystems in which they can grow their own economies. -Gro Harlem Brundtland

“Poverty is not an accident like slavery and apartheid, it is man- made and can be removed by actions of human beings.” -Nelson Mandela


“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity it is an act of justice.” -Nelson Mandela

“Anyone who has ever struggle with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” -James Baldwin

“Poverty is an great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroyed liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable and others extremely difficult. -Samuel Johnson

”Poverty is really the lack of freedom to have or to do basic things that you value,” -Amartya Sen

“Poverty is a state of mind.” -Gandhi

“The real poverty of the poor is the poverty of their aspirations.” – Adam Smith

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