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World Poverty as a Global Social Problem


Despite the recent scientific and technological successes, the problem of global poverty still affects millions of people in different parts of the world. Poverty and the key methods helping to reduce it attract the attention of numerous researchers in different areas of expertise. Even though the actual size of global poverty is a highly debatable question, there are widely accepted solutions to the problem that include measures to support economic growth, provide access to jobs, and distribute resources to meet poor people’s needs.

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Global Poverty Research

Poverty in Academic Literature and Official Statistics

It is accepted that global poverty has to deal with inequality, but the problem’s actual size presents a disputable question. According to the United Nations (n.d.), 783 million people in the world, the majority of which are from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, have to live on less than two U.S. dollars a day. As of 2016, less than 50% of the world population had access to social protection benefits (United Nations, n.d.).

Discussing the effectiveness of poverty reduction efforts, international organizations claim that “global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000” (United Nations, n.d., para.1). As is clear from academic literature, some researchers find these claims too optimistic and even intentionally misleading. For instance, according to Hickel (2016), the ability to use “the good news narrative” is a result of poverty measurement methodologies that are too flexible, and in fact, about four billion people can be regarded as financially disadvantaged (p. 750). Therefore, global poverty is often discussed with attention to the credibility of poverty measurement indicators.

Other popular topics in global poverty research include the problem’s primary causes that are to inform poverty reduction strategies. According to Amartya Sen’s study conducted almost forty years ago, some people can starve to death even in resource-rich countries just because they do not receive timely help and are not entitled to food (Hoy & Sumner, 2016). Extrapolating these results to the issue of world poverty, Hoy and Sumner (2016) argue that governments’ approach to national resource distribution is a major cause of the problem.

Taking this perspective, modern researchers widely criticize strategies to reduce poverty that are based solely on the growth of GDP and economic development and do not emphasize measures to redistribute available resources (Hickel, 2016; Hoy & Sumner, 2016; Page & Pande, 2018).

The role of approaches to resource distribution, modern authors argue, is underestimated. Thus, Hoy and Sumner (2016) prove that almost 75% of world poverty can be eliminated with the help of finance reallocation and new public spending decisions. Therefore, commonly used approaches to reducing poverty are criticized in modern studies, but alternative strategies that are detailed and implementable are not always presented.

Poverty and Opinion Polls

In addition to economic analysis, poverty in the world is often studied from the sociological perspective, including the use of opinion polls. The mentioned tool is usually applied in particular countries to learn more about people’s attitudes to the current methods used to reduce poverty rates and the success of governments’ efforts (Howard, Freeman, Wilson, & Brown, 2017). Howard et al. (2017) analyze poll data collected during the last twenty years and single out the key trends in common citizens’ perceptions of financial inequality and anti-poverty efforts.

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Thus, an average U.S. citizen is likely to sympathize with financially disadvantaged people and associate poverty with mistakes at the systems level instead of thinking that financial positions depend only on individuals’ own decisions and efforts (Howard et al., 2017). The tendency to regard poverty as a result of ineffective economic systems continues to grow. In particular, the number of respondents who believe that poor people work a lot but cannot improve their financial position has increased from 49% to 65% since 1994 (Howard et al., 2017). It explains people’s changing expectations related to the role of governments in poverty reduction.

Analysis and Reflection

Modern researchers take different approaches to studying global poverty, its root causes, and measures to reduce poverty rates. In spite of differences related to philosophical views and opinions about international relations, there are no scholars proving that global poverty is an overestimated problem that does not require the concerted efforts of different countries to be solved. As is clear from some authors’ claims, although global poverty is a problem of great importance, there are many points at issue related to the success of international strategies and the accuracy of current definitions of poor citizens.

Global poverty and its reduction present a complicated research problem due to such factors as different approaches to measuring the exact number of poor people. In addition to that, poverty is a complex phenomenon since its levels can vary depending on geographic regions, socio-economic circumstances, and even countries’ involvement in armed conflicts. Taking that into account, there can be no universal recipe for success when it comes to strategies for the reduction of poverty. This complexity should always be considered during the stage of strategy development.

How to Fight Poverty: Potential Solutions

Nowadays, there is no consensus among researchers when it comes to the exact details of anti-poverty strategies that would increase the effectiveness of different countries’ efforts. In general, the most popular solutions involve the following elements: economic growth, global policies to reduce unemployment rates, efforts helping to tackle social inequality, and new methods of resource distribution at the national level.

The solution proposed and implemented by the United Nations (n.d.) presents a set of policies aimed at encouraging economic growth in low-GDP countries with the help of new jobs and measures to remove barriers to employment. With that in mind, economic development can be listed among the key areas that attract researchers’ attention when it comes to global poverty.

Moreover, in reference to potential solutions, the proper distribution of responsibilities at the global level can also be regarded as the key to success. For instance, by increasing the degree to which governments are responsible for meeting poor citizens’ needs, one can maximize the effects of strategies that involve both economic development and resource distribution practices (Page & Pande, 2018).

Given that responsibility for outcomes can be a good motivating factor, it is likely that anti-poverty solutions emphasizing its role would be successful. Importantly, there are people in financial hardship in any country, and this factor makes it more difficult to propose effective solutions capable of reducing poverty rates. Considering economic and demographic differences between countries, it is clear that approaches to this problem should be individualized. Also, they should be informed by specific statistical data related to labor markets, resource availability, and international relations with economically stable states that are the potential foreign aid donors.

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To sum it up, global poverty presents a problem that is studied with the help of numerous methods, which probably explains the presence of drastically dissimilar opinions in academic literature. Since it is caused by different, even state-specific factors, the problem should not be oversimplified. Approaches to solving it should be reflective of real-life issues in particular regions. As for generalized recommendations, effective strategies for poverty reduction have to make the right use of different initiatives, including resource distribution and economic growth policies, as well as projects that guarantee access to jobs.


Hickel, J. (2016). The true extent of global poverty and hunger: Questioning the good news narrative of the Millennium Development Goals. Third World Quarterly, 37(5), 749-767.

Howard, C., Freeman, A., Wilson, A., & Brown, E. (2017). The polls – trends: Poverty. Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(3), 769-789. Web.

Hoy, C., & Sumner, A. (2016). Global poverty and inequality: Is there new capacity for redistribution in developing countries? Journal of Globalization and Development, 7(1), 117-157.

Page, L., & Pande, R. (2018). Ending global poverty: Why money isn’t enough. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 32(4), 173-200.

United Nations. (n.d.). Ending poverty. Web.

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