An estimated 767 million people lived below the poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2013, according to the UN.1 In 2014, some 263 million children and youth were not attending school, and more than 70 percent of the out-of-school children who should have been in primary or secondary education lived in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.2 In the United States, a report revealed that in 2014, “approximately 15 million children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty.”3
Poverty’s Pervasive Stranglehold
Many impoverished families know education is the long-term solution to their financial troubles, but it is typically out of reach.
The father who works from sunup to sundown seven days a week will have little time to mentor his children. The same could be said of the mother who labors in the fields all day. During their most formative and vulnerable years, millions of children are left alone during the day to wander in their villages. Many will adopt poor social habits and learn nothing of respect or self-discipline. School is out of the picture for them; all the family’s energy must be focused on providing food and shelter.
Often, a family’s financial plight is so desperate that even young children must contribute to the family income. For the roughly 150 million child laborers in the world, there is no school, no delving into their nation’s history, and no adventuring to museums to learn about science and art.
No money means no food, which means malnutrition and increased health problems. No money means no doctor visits, and in the case of a medical emergency, no money may mean indenturing a child to work off the incurred debt after receiving critical treatment.
Living hand to mouth kills dreams. For many impoverished families, ambition becomes unrealistic amid the ever-present fight against starvation. For the majority of children raised in poverty-stricken families and communities, the fruit of their harsh childhood is more of the same. When they become parents, they will raise their children as they themselves were raised—unless they can manage to find a way out, into a new way of life.
There are many causes of poverty, which makes the alleviation of poverty a very complex issue. While the basic definition of extreme poverty is earning less than $1.90 a day, we understand that the economic definition is only a portion of the equation.
The mindset of poverty is powerful. It degrades and constantly reminds a person of their deficiency and external circumstances. This continues generation after generation. When that mindset is broken, hope enters the picture. A person can dream again.
Poverty and education—they perpetuate one another. People who live in poverty often can’t afford education. People who aren’t educated don’t have a way out of poverty.
Reducing extreme poverty is a massive challenge, but the strategies and solutions to poverty are equally promising. Today, $1.90 of daily income is the official marker of extreme poverty and around 736 million people are in this group, many of them children.
Throughout the Bible, we are called to take up the case of the poor and be an advocate for the oppressed. We are to act on behalf of the poor with the understanding that we are serving to further God’s work in the world. Here are some Bible verses about poverty, along with commentary on how we are to respond to God’s Word.
In developing countries, there is a dearth of adult literacy. Approximately 773 million youth and adults cannot read or write. This lack negatively impacts individual’s economic opportunities and many other facets of their life, including parents’ ability to properly care for their children. It also prevents adults from fully participating in their communities and societies.
The cycle of generational poverty can seem impossible to break. Children inherit what their parents teach and show them, a joint report from Ascend: The Aspen Institute and Bernard van Leer Foundation affirms this. “What young children learn from the adults who raise and care for them lays the foundation for future social, emotional, language, and cognitive growth,” the report says.