Thursday, October 9, 2014

Weeks four and five - Researching the causes of poverty.

During weeks four and five, we study the rich/poor gap and research the causes of poverty. For the participants this may seem like a useless study—they know they lack funds while others have abundance, and what caused this doesn’t seem important; they just want to get ahead. But studying the gap and its causes is proving to be of great benefit. 

 Generally speaking, people tend to sit in one of two camps: conservatives at the “individual choice” end of the continuum and liberals at “the system” end. Getting Ahead steps away from the politics of poverty in the US and looks at society as a whole. Instead of either/or, we say both/and. There are four main causes of poverty: Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance; community conditions; exploitation (predators); and political/economic structure.

 I’ll give a brief breakdown of the four causes and later I will discuss what we as a community can do to knock down barriers and build a more stable, stronger community in which we all live well. 

Individual choice, behavior, and circumstance – This seems like a simple enough idea, but often one poor choice can lead to a lifetime of struggle and future bad choices, especially if the choice was made in our youth. 

Community conditions – Do community organizations, businesses, and city leaders actively seek ways to manage or eliminate poverty?

Exploitation or predator businesses – If you are subject to the “tyranny of the moment” and have to have a concrete solution to a pressing problem today, you may consider going to a “predator business” to solve your problem. We discuss how using payday loans, rent-to-own, or pay-by-the-week car purchases only worsen your situation. 

Political/economic structure – Are the government policies designed to help the poor really working? Are there living wage jobs for all citizens?

The bottom line is that a community must recognize and work on all causes of poverty to achieve a lower poverty level. 


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