I just read a great opinion article by Melvina Young about the relationship between poverty and lifestyle choices. In the article, she explains that we cannot blame poverty solely on lifestyle choices.

Many affluent people try to blame poverty on poor people by claiming that poor people’s bad decisions cause their poverty. However, in reality, many unindividual factors cause poverty. In the article, Young points out limited availability of quality education and high-paying employment as two major impersonal factors that can make or keep a person poor.

Additionally, famine, illness, and other cases of bad luck can also make a person poor.

Melvina Young also points out the absurdity of the whole “get a job” mantra by pointing out that most poor people have jobs. Also, I know that millions of college graduates in the United States live in poverty.

Even a minor, non-self-inflicted crisis could throw most so-called “middle-class” people into poverty by ruining their financial juggling.

Even in the United States, most children born into poverty will remain in poverty throughout their lives. On average, these children achieve significantly less in their lives than more affluent children. That happens because the poor children receive less opportunity. They do not get quality education. They often grow up hungry and unloved, surrounded by violence, crime, drugs, and bad role models. They end up poor on average because of their enviornment. Like a seed planted in infertile dirt without water or sunlight, they have the individual potential but not the environmental opportunity.

In analogy, even the best poker player can lose a hand if he receives bad cards. As Melvina Young says in her article, “Personal responsibility is a powerful and crucial thing. But it’s only part of the picture.”

We live in a world where a smart, hard-working single mother with 3 jobs can live in poverty while a pathetic do-nothing like Paris Hilton lives the pampered life of richness.

People can end up poor not because of their decision-making but because of external factors. Two people who exercise equal decision-making ability will almost always live very different lives because they will receive different opportunity. One could end up poor while the other ends up rich.

I find it absurd for people to blame poverty solely on personal decisions. Obviously, both personal decisions and socioeconomic forces contribute to a person’s financial status. On average, I do not see poor people as significantly lazier or stupider than non-poor people. Socioeconomic forces seem to contribute more to a person’s financial status than their personal decisions.

What do you think? Which do you think contributes to poverty more–personal decisions or socioeconomic forces? Post your responses in this thread at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums.

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 | Posted by | Categories: American Poverty |

Trading Away Poverty

29 December 2007

In a New York Times letter-to-the-editor entitled Trading Away Poverty, Ignacio Sosa writes that free markets and trade can do more to fight poverty than donations to large organizations such as the World Bank.

I agree completely. Of course, we can both trade with and donate to poor communities. The two methods do not exclude each other.

Nonetheless, large donations do not usually help people or communities become self-sufficient. Donations often only provide temporary relief to the symptoms of poverty, and they can undermine local markets and increase dependency. To permanently escape poverty, poor people and poor communities need to develop economically so that they can become self-sufficient.

For example, the United States could do more to relieve Mexican poverty by reducing border restrictions. This would allow workers from the labor-intensive country of Mexico to immigrate to the United States, and investors from the capital-intensive country of the United States to invest in Mexico’s labor-intensive economy. This would create a win-win situation for both countries, in that each economy would get what it demands by voluntarily trading away what it has in excess.

Truly free markets allow for mutually beneficial agreements and trades, which leads to economic development and reductions in poverty.

What do you think? You can discuss this post and free trade’s relationship to poverty in this thread at the World Hunger and Poverty Forums. It is completely free, and all viewpoints are welcome.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Aid Reform |

I have decided to post some poverty-related news stories from around the world.

A group of economists have criticized the government of Indonesia for failing to reduce the number of people living in poverty in the country despite general economic improvement for the country as a whole. 105.3 million people in Indonesia live in poverty out of the country’s total population of 236.4 million. While it may seem odd that a country’s economy can improve without decreasing the number of people in poverty, I find that it often happens like that because gains in the economy usually correlate with increased inequality. As the rich get very richer, the poor get poorer. And the “average” income still goes up because the rich make more money than the poor lose.

The mayor-elect of Salt Lake City, Ralph Becker, says that he will work to reduce poverty in the city during his term. That pledge apparently came after a coalition of community and faith groups challenged Becker to reduce poverty.

A program director from the University of Oklahoma has decided to hire two researchers to investigate how public schools can reduce poverty. Even without extensive studies, I think most of us can see how grade schools impact poverty. Hopefully, society will start using schools to break the poverty cycle. Personally, I think private schools have much more potential than public schools, but poor children would need to receive some sort of large voucher or loan to attend private school.

You can discuss the above stories and post your own stories in my World Hunger and Poverty Forums. We need to discuss these major problems together so that we can come up with agreeable solutions.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty News |

Local Volunteer Groups Page

26 December 2007

I have added a page to this blog with a list of local volunteer groups. The list will contain the names and contact information of the organizers of local volunteer groups. Since I just made it, it currently only lists me and my group.

If you already have a volunteer group, please send me the information for it so that I can add it to the list. Otherwise, please consider organizing a local volunteer group. If you have any questions about organizing a local volunteer group, I made a thread to discuss it: Organizing A Local Volunteer Group

Each one of us only lives in one local community. The success of the war on poverty depends on local organizers. Please consider organizing a local volunteer group. You could probably do it easier than you think. And us organizers can all use the internet to share information, tips, and ideas.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty News |

I simply want to say that I hope all of you have had a great holiday season so far whether you celebrate Christmas or not. Also, I hope you have many more happy holidays in the future.

We can relax for now, but after this holiday season I want to expand this blog’s purpose to organize more direct, hands-on activism. I want to both create a very active local group in my local community and I want to use this blog to help organize a network with other local organizers. However, I will talk about that more in the beginning of the New Year.

Speaking of the New Year, if you want to read something, check out the blog post I made last New Year’s Day: We Need a New Era


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 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty News |

Fat Poor People

21 December 2007

I just read an interesting blog post by Philip Brewer about the fatness of poor people. In the post, Brewer points out the seeming irony of poor people’s tendency for fatness and obesity. He cites some of the common explanations given for that phenomenon, but he ultimately blames it on hunger. He explains that poor people overeat because the human body still feels hungry until it gets the nutrition it needs, and poor people tend to eat unhealthily because unhealthy food tends to cost less than healthier food.

Brewer offers the solution of eating healthy on a budget by cooking “real food” at home. To paraphrase, he says that people need to stop buying things that have a list of ingredients and instead buy actual ingredients.

Unfortunately, many poor people probably do not have the time or knowledge to cook healthy food. Instead they will succumb to the likes of the dollar menu at McDonald’s. Also, poor children have to rely on their parents who may not cook for them.

I recommend that anti-poverty organizations take steps to help poor people eat healthier. They can even do this simply by distributing helpful information to poor people. Also, I think as a society we can use the schools to ensure that children have access to healthy food. I would like to see schools offer more healthy choices to children. I would also like to see the schools create more breakfast programs. In fact, the schools could also open their cafeterias after-school for an early dinner.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Poverty News |
Children suffering from Poverty