Why do inequality and poverty exist in our society?Why do inequality and poverty exist in our society?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is impossible to know for certain why inequality and poverty exist and persist in our system.  There are two main strands of thought about this.

First, there is a school of thought that says that these problems persist because of the culture of the poor.  The idea here is that those who are poor have cultural values that prevent them from improving themselves economically.  The poor, it is said, do not care enough (for example) about the long term.  Therefore, they make choices (like dropping out of school) that are gratifying in the short term but which doom them to long term poverty.  A major name identified with this idea is James Q. Wilson.  Another is George Gilder.

A second school of thought argues that poverty is caused by a lack of good opportunities for the poor.  It argues, for example, that poor people in inner cities do not have access to the same quality of education that is available to the middle class people living in the suburbs.  Because of this, the poor start off life already handicapped and things go downhill from there.

Please follow the "poverty-article" link below for essays that embody both of these perspectives.

megan-bright eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Everything involved includes many diverse factors and diverse groups of people. Within any given population, different people will be motivated by different factors as far as working is concerned. Money means different things to everyone, as some people prefer job satisfaction over money. Though no one wants or deserves to live in poverty, some people are simply more innovative and driven and will make whatever sacrifices possible (even if some are unethical) to rise to the top.

Other people will be satisfied with simply making a living and getting by comfortably.

Every person or group also comes with a different set of skills, goals, experiences, and strengths. Some people will undoubtedly have the upper hand in regards to their location, natural resources, family, intelligence, work ethic, education level, connections, and I have to add gender, race, culture, and religious values make a huge difference as well.


kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to agree with the post that describes the poor, working or otherwise, as fuel for the engine that drives wealth being garnered by the rich.  If you look at where the wealth and assets in this country (The US) have gone in the past twenty years it is almost exclusively to the top 1% of the population in terms of salary and assets.  This while the rest of the country struggles and with real unemployment around 20%.

The argument put forth by Orwell in 1984 is that the maintenance of an artificial scarcity is absolutely necessary because if the resources that are used (in 1984's case for war, same as ours today) to maintain large militaries and conduct operations were used to level the playing field, suddenly people wouldn't put up with a powerful, monied elite because they would realize that they are unnecessary.

justaguide eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think all of us here have an inherent belief that the rich are the ones who are to blame for those who remain poor.

Is it really that way? If one were to look at the richest people in the US, be it Warren Buffet or Bill Gates, they weren't born with a silver spoon. They have reached where they are on their own.

A lot of people are born with luck not on their sides but examples abound of those who built themselves a fortune starting from scratch.

I don't think it is right to place the responsibility of taking care of the poor on the rich. We all have the right to live for ourselves, not as caretakers of our brothers.

Ok...Ayn Rand is my favorite author.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Darwin theorists would have a lot to say about the existence of poverty and the way that some are far more successful at taking from others who are more easily exploited. I guess the fact that there is a limited pot of money in the world indicates that true equality is highly unlikely to be shared. Money is linked irrevocably to power in this world, and those who are more powerful are always going to take more and be able to exploit those less powerful than they are, unfortunately. It is a dog-eat-dog world out there, I am afraid.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can also argue, from a basic economics viewpoint, that in a capitalist system such as ours, a certain percentage of poor must exist in the working class in order for people to become wealthy.  Some economists have argued capitalism cannot effectively function as a system with less than 6% unemployment to keep wages low.  Just as fully socialist systems lack the motivation of competition, fully capitalist systems enshrine it, and this type of raw business competition uses the poor as fuel.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Inequality and poverty exist in our society because wealth and opportunity are inherited.  If we all entered the world with an equal amount of resources, some would still rise above others if greed was a societal norm.  Since greed is the norm in our society, and wealth is passed from generation to generation, there will always be inequality and poverty.