Examples of Generational Poverty

Poverty is often passed down from one generation to the next. Here are some examples of generational poverty.

Sumana’s parents struggled to provide for their seven children.1 They even uprooted their family and moved to the city in search of better wages to give their children a better future. Her parents worked long hours in a carpet factory, but it still wasn’t enough.

As one of the eldest, Sumana dropped out of school to help provide for her younger siblings. It was one less tuition fee and one more income as Sumana joined her parents at the carpet factory, giving up her dream of gaining an education and attaining a better future for herself.

Sadly, it’s a choice many impoverished families, especially in developing countries, are forced to make. According to a GFA World special report, many such families “are so poor and often in so much debt that they are not likely to recover from either without enlisting their children as breadwinners. They can see no way out of their poverty, so they sacrifice the future (the education and success of their children) on the altar of the immediate (survival now).”2

As a result, 160 million children are involved in child labor.3 These children rarely complete their education, limiting their future job opportunities and chances for breaking out of poverty.4 And thus the cycle continues.

Gaetane is further evidence of this phenomenon.5 Her impoverished parents had been unable to send her to school as a girl. Instead, she dropped out of school before she even had a chance to learn how to read and write, skills she yearned for as an adult. As daily laborers, Gaetane and her husband struggled to provide for their family of six. Gaetane longed to help her children with their studies, to help them attain a better future, but her illiteracy prevented her from doing so.

Suhana’s story is another example of this cycle.6 For thousands of years, Suhana’s people in Asia had lived with the same traditional, rural ways. Predominantly farmers, they had worked hard to eke out a living from the soil. They didn’t seek riches, only to survive. Still, many obstacles stood in their way, including drought. Sometimes severe drought would cause the entire village to relocate, becoming poorer in the process as they left behind anything they couldn’t carry.

Their poverty and lack of necessities affected everyone, but especially girls such as Suhana. Their families often believed these girls couldn’t sufficiently contribute to the family’s survival. As a result, they might be married off at a young age to ease the family’s financial burden. This was the case for Suhana as she joined more than 650 million women who marry under the age of 18.7 In developing regions, “child marriage is one of the most common reasons a girl might stop going to school,” says Global Citizen.8

Impoverished children such as these may be destined to repeat the generational cycle of poverty unless there is some sort of intervention or change in circumstance. Fortunately, organizations like GFA World offer help and hope for the future. For example, GFA World’s Child Sponsorship Program helps children in need gain a solid foundation for their futures and GFA World’s literacy program has helped Gaetane and many other women learn how to read and write. These and other community development programs, such as Jesus Wells and gift distributions, empower people in places such as Asia and Africa to escape generational poverty.

1 “Chasing Education for Her Sister’s Future.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/chasing-education-for-her-sisters-future-wfr20-10/. October 2020.
2 Gutheil, Lou. “Child Labor: Not Gone, but Forgotten.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/child-labor-today/. July 9, 2019.
3 “Child labour rises to 160 million – first increase in two decades.” International Labour Organization. https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_800090/lang–en/index.htm. June 10, 2021.
4 GPE Secretariat. “Child Labor Hinders Children’s Education.” https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/child-labor-hinders-childrens-education. June 12, 2016.
5 “Literacy Class Builds Woman’s Confidence, Faith.” GFA World. https://gospelforasia-reports.org/2021/07/literacy-class-builds-womans-confidence-faith/. July 29, 2021.
6 “New Bride, New Village, New Well.” GFA World. https://www.gfa.org/news/articles/new-bride-new-village-new-well-wfr20-03/. March 2020.
7 Rodriguez, Leah. “Understanding How Poverty is the Main Barrier to Education.” Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/poverty-education-satistics-facts/. February 6, 2020.
8 Rodriguez, Leah. “Understanding How Poverty is the Main Barrier to Education.” Global Citizen. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/poverty-education-satistics-facts/. February 6, 2020.