What is poverty?

We explain what poverty is, its causes, consequences and the types of poverty that exist. In addition, figures in Mexico and the world.

  1. What is poverty?

It is a socioeconomic condition in which resources are scarce , or the tools necessary to acquire them on a regular basis. Those who suffer from it cannot satisfy their basic physical and mental needs , which guarantee an adequate quality of life : food , housing, health care, formal education.

In some cases it also implies the lack of access to basic services such as electricity, drinking water, telephone line, etc. In other words, poverty is much more than the mere lack of capital.

There are multiple social, economic and even psychological factors involved in poverty, and also different ways of measuring and understanding it. However, in general, the line of the beginning of hardship is drawn when the lack of fundamental means for subsistence is suffered.

In many cases it is a consequence of chronic unemployment, a very low level of income. In addition, the conditions of marginalization and significant social exclusion make social ascent and integration in terms of equality in the community more difficult . In other words, the poorer a person is, the harder it is to find opportunities to change their situation.

It is one of the main problems of the industrialized world , since it is due to other evils and sufferings in nations, in a world that exhibits deep inequalities. Although there seems to be no 100% effective methods to combat it, numerous institutions of all kinds are dedicated to their own plans to reduce it.

In fact, according to UN measurements , it is estimated that as of the year 2000 it was possible to curb the growth of poverty globally , which could be the beginning of the slow and long process of starting to reverse it.

  1. Causes of poverty

It has always existed, since early societies, as it is a consequence of the unequal distribution of wealth , something that seems to nest within human societies forever. In fact, the word itself comes from the Latin pauper , which means “infertile”, probably associated with those who cultivated less generous land than those of others.

However, the existence of hardship is not due to simple causes, but is the result of a series of historical, social and cultural conditions that, on the other hand, afflict different societies in different ways.

For example, the colonialism of the European powers , which looted and subdued the other continents, can be seen as a causal factor for their former colonies to enter the modern world in unequal conditions, lack of resources, populations decimated by the war of independence .

Moreover, for the most part their economic systems were dependent, which soon translated into considerable margins of poverty. In fact, many of the former colonies are today part of the so-called Third World.

In addition, hardship often leads to significant educational deficiencies , including sexual and reproductive education, so that poor populations are more prone to early pregnancy and to the unplanned family. These conditions diminish their chances of overcoming and restart the cycle of marginalization and poverty, throughout generations.

Another cause of global hardship is the wars and territorial conflicts that leave those who suffer from them helpless: refugees, migrants or survivors, almost always reduced to poverty and forced to start from scratch, either in their devastated country or in a foreign country where they have nothing and nobody knows them.

  1. Types of poverty

The main distinction when talking about hardship is between critical poverty and extreme poverty, depending on the amount of vital deprivation that the person suffers:

  • Critical hardship . It is suffered by citizens who are unable to comply with the basic consumption basket , composed not only of food and supplies, but also of basic basic services. Generally, individuals in this situation invest absolutely all their capital in food exclusively.
  • Extremely poor . Considered as a lower step compared to criticism, the inhabitants in this condition not only cannot access the basic food basket, but cannot even consume a basic amount of daily calories that guarantees them a decent standard of living. On this level are the homeless, for example.

On the other hand, the measurement of hardship levels distinguishes, according to the socioeconomic context, between two other categories: absolute poverty and relative poverty.

  • Relative hardship . It is a concept that depends on the immediate socioeconomic environment of a city , a region, a country or a continent , as it is determined by the relationship with the other individuals in society. In addition, the economic and social terms of one place may be very different from those of another, and are not always directly comparable.
  • Absolute hardship . On the contrary, absolute poverty is a general measurement of the population, applying more or less uniform criteria for this, as is the minimum consumption basket. It is a comparative value in the same terms, in order to establish an amount of net poverty.
  1. Consequences of poverty

poverty malnutrition
There are programs to prevent malnutrition as a result of poverty.

Hardship has significant consequences in the lives of people and in all nations, such as:

  • Malnutrition . Poverty prevents children from accessing the caloric levels necessary to grow strong and healthy, thus raisingchild mortality ratesand giving way to generations weaker than their predecessors.
  • Pandemics . In countries where extreme poverty is abundant, there are large sections of the population marginalized and with little or no access to public health. In these cases it is common the appearance of diseases of mass infection or the reappearance of diseases that had been considered eradicated.
  • Low human development . In general, societies with high hardship margins show slower consumer markets, lower investment in culture and, in general, less development as a society.
  • Criminality and drugs . Although poverty has no direct and necessary link with the criminality and proliferation of drugs, nor are these two exclusive elements of it, it is true that being in desperate economic and social conditions, the poor are the most likely to accept murky businesses in exchange for an improvement in their economic income. In addition, in many cases the use of drugs is part of the strategies to avoid poverty, given that in many cases the rational options to stop being poor seem to be few, or none. However, this is a consequence only in some cases.
  • Social resentment . Poverty leads to exclusion. In some cases, exclusion leads to resentment and resentment can become urban violence, and other mass phenomena whose results may be unpredictable. However, violence is not an exclusive feature of people suffering from poverty and on the other hand most of them are not violent.
  1. Poverty in the world

The hardship measurement carried out in 2012 by the World Bank agencies, showed the following figures:

  • Hardship is around 22.43% in developing countries , which represents a relative improvement over the 52.16% recorded in 1981.
  • 2 billion people in the world still lack access to medicines and suffer from anemia.
  • More than 1 billion people in the world can be considered in extreme poverty , lack stable housing and 70% are women.
  • More than 1.8 billion people do not have access to drinking water .
  • Around 100,000 people starve daily.

Many international organizations fight poverty through large-scale initiatives, ranging from educational plans ( UNICEF ), medical and food aid (Doctors Without Borders, UN), or simply economic protection and international aid projects ( IMF , World Bank) .

Even so, the inequality between the nations of the developed world and those of the so-called Third World is so significant that there is no easy solution to the drama of poverty.

  1. Poverty in Mexico

The Mexican population has less than 50% of citizens living below the international poverty line , according to World Bank terms. But it is estimated that, in terms of national measurement, the percentage of poverty in Mexico is very significant.

Thus, 76.9% of the total Mexican population lives in moderate hardship , 28.2% in relative poverty, 13.4% in absolute poverty and 1.8% in extreme or critical poverty.

These non-cumulative percentages come from the 2015 United Nations Human Development Report. All of the above translates into 87.7 million people living in moderate poverty; 33.6 million living in relative poverty; 15.2 million living in absolute poverty; and 2.2 million living in extreme poverty.

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