One way to investigate the causes of poverty is to examine the characteristics exhibited by poor people. These are both causes and effects of poverty and have the potential to precipitate the negative cycle of deprivation.
- Lack of sufficient income and assets to obtain basic necessities like food, shelter, clothing, and basic healthcare and education.
Economic growth is automatically associated with poverty reduction; however, how much growth translates into lowered poverty depends on the level of inequality in the distribution of income and how it changes over time. It also depends on sound and stable governance. Therefore, reducing socioeconomic inequalities and building healthy institutions is essential for both economic growth as well as reducing poverty.
- Sense of voiceless ness and powerlessness in the institutions of state and society.
Materially deprived have no voice, power, or independence. This helplessness subjects them to rudeness, humiliation, and exploitation at the hands of state institutions and society. Absence of the rule of law, lack of protection against violence and intimidation, and lack of civility and accountability on the part of the public officials further compounds their hardships and isolates them from the mainstream.
Social norms and barriers can also contribute to voiceless ness and powerlessness. While local cultures have intrinsic value, they can also sometimes add to human deprivation. For instance, gender inequality between men and women and discrimination against women, discrimination based on caste, religious beliefs, and social status promote deprivation and curtail development.
- Vulnerability to adverse shocks which may come from sudden fluctuations in market or weather conditions and social, communal, or political turbulence; and they are unable to cope with them.
Vulnerability is a constant companion of people living in deprivation. If they are poor farmers, they have to live with uncertain rainfall. If living in urban slums, rains can wipe out their homes, strongmen harass them or authorities can ill-treat or demolish their colonies because it is illegal, they have temporary and uncertain employment, and so on. Since they lack sufficient means to cope with such shocks and don’t have connections to people in power, they are forced to live in hardship. This can also set a vicious downward spiral when the actions, such as taking loans, sale of asset, or pulling children out of school to cope in the short term extend their misery in the long run.