Poverty is deprivation of material essentials such as food, shelter, drinking water, and clothing. It is also associated with the lack of education, freedom, and dignity. The uneven distribution of poverty at various scales, from the global to the household, via the national, regional, and local, suggests the importance of geographic factors in explaining its prevalence and understanding its nature.
Multiple factors operating at various interconnected scales cause poverty. Globally, uneven trade and capital flows lead to poverty through exclusion from the benefits of economic growth. Access to water and natural resources, transportation, and climate also shape physical abilities and economic opportunities. International and national policies influence poverty directly through aid, subsidies and antipoverty programs, and indirectly, through economic policies that affect the allocation of resources between people, regions, and industries. While some argue that individual characteristics such as education and the work ethic are paramount in explaining poverty, others insist that social and economic structures define capabilities based on gender, class, caste, race, religion, and other forces (Panadero, Vázquez, 574). Women are often denied access to education, paid employment, health care, financial resources, and political participation because of their gender. While these socially embedded practices deprive women of economic opportunities and basic freedoms, they also contribute to poverty indirectly through fertility and child care. In the United States, the rise of “working poverty” has been linked to economic restructuring and the decline of the welfare state. The role of these factors varies from place to place and underscores the importance of geography in understanding poverty. (Assan, 409)
Children may be contributing to family poverty because they are a drain on family resources; however, research shows that in countries with more family-friendly policies, disposable income falls only moderately when families have children. In 2007, Wendy Sigle-Rushton, London School of Economics, and Jane Waldfogel, Columbia University School of Social Work, used data from seven Western, industrialized countries to compare gaps in gross and disposable family income between families with and without children. They found that differences in earnings and labor market participation of women were major drivers in the gap in gross and disposable income; taxes and government transfers also narrowed the differences. This means that poverty rates are strongly related to parents especially mothers having access to the labor force, the wages they receive, and government policies aimed at assisting families in obtaining and holding decent-paying, stable employment. (Abouchedid, Nasser, Morçöl, 731)
Many studies have documented the rise of precarious employment characterized by poor job quality, low wages, and few or no benefits. Over the past decade, Canada and the United States have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector, resulting in the loss of higher-waged, permanent jobs with relatively low education requirements. Many of these displaced workers become employed in temporary, low-waged, precarious, nonstandard jobs (Van Oorschot, Halman, 20). Recent immigrants to Canada and the United States, who often reside in large cities (with high cost of living) parachute into precarious labor markets. This has forced many recent arrivals and others to become multiple job holders in an attempt to make ends ...