What Causes Poverty?


There is no short answer to this question. But there are answers. This introductory article on the topic gives our best efforts at a concise, philosophical and practical explanation as to “What causes poverty globally?” The answer to this apparently ‘simple’ question is both simple and complex – at the same time – and there’s a good reason why. This article illustrates this vital point by considering it from the perspective of two other things you will already be familiar with: the human body and business. We compare the causes of poverty to the ULTIMATE causes of failures in these other two comparable ‘systems’. This is the best place to start answering the question. So to find out more,  click here.


In order to understand the complex contributory causes of poverty better, we strongly recommend you familiarise yourself first with what we call Systems Thinking. For us, it is a vital step on the journey towards focusing poverty fixers on more effective poverty solutions. As your next step on that journey of understanding, we recommend you read our introduction to the subject here.

However, for a more comprehensive treatment of other leading thinkers on the subject, perhaps our Research Paper investigating the contributory causes of poverty will be more to your liking. Read more below.

what causes poverty like this


At Give A Billion, we use a number of tools that we find useful. One of the best ones for organising knowledge of a subject area – any area, however vast – is using Rudyard Kipling’s 6 Honest Serving Men. This is after the rhyme: ‘I keep 6 honest serving men (they taught me all I knew); their names are what and why and when, and how and where and who’. The implications of this profound rhyme are huge for anyone wanting to LEARN anything about anything. All that knowledge can be organised and stored using these headings. It is the same with knowledge about what causes poverty. In this context, the 7 Layer Poverty Model is itself a tool which helps with 4 of the questions: who, what, when and where. The ‘who’ is primarily the individual facing poverty, represented by the cone at the centre of the model. The other who’s are any members of the household to which the individual belongs, or the community which they are part of. There is also the ‘who’ you could use to identify all the organisations that are ‘actors’, or ‘stakeholders’ in connection with that individual facing poverty.

The ‘what’ in the context of the 7 Layer Poverty Model, is the details of the nature of the poverty that the individual is facing. The ‘when’ and ‘where’ are pretty self-explanatory. We live in an age where every square metre of the planet can be mapped with exact GPS co-ordinates and found fairly reliably using Google Maps, Google Earth, or their equivalent. So then, we have over 7 billion people, all of whom are now uniquely identifiable and their every location on the planet also uniquely identifiable. The rest of this comprehensive Research Paper draws on insights from System Thinking, to deal with the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of poverty. ‘Why’ does it exist (its contributory causes) and ‘how’ can the various poverty fixers best overcome it. To download the full Research Paper, using System Thinking to examine the Top 100 articles generated in response to the Google search term “solving global poverty”, click on the link below. It is a comprehensive read (45 pages!), for the poverty professional, the academic, or the serious enquirer and is perhaps best read AFTER having read the introductory article referred to immediately above. It is the means by which we bench-tested our own ideas alongside the best of the others out there.

100 Top Solving Poverty Articles_2014 Synopsis


If you have read the above articles on what causes poverty globally and are still hungry for more, we admire your appetite for knowledge! From our remaining menu, we would then recommend our article that examines the Millennium Development Goals and the underlying reasons for their evident failings, seen from the perspective of Systems Thinking. It also goes on to build on these insights to consider what might sensibly supersede the MDG’s, in terms of effective solutions to poverty from the MACRO to the MICRO scales. This approach will help us avoid poverty history repeating itself, after another 15 disappointing years. Einstein apparently said that one definition of insanity is ‘endlessly repeating the same process and expecting a different result’. If we want to change the MDG outcomes, we need to change the processes being followed. This article explains precisely how. To read it, click here.

If you have read and understood the implications of all 4 of these articles regarding what causes poverty, then to us you are most certainly

One in a Billion!


Leave a Reply

helping a billion people