Why is it so hard breaking the cycle of poverty?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that part of the reason why it is so difficult to break the cycle of poverty is because it is a cycle.  It is a machine that is able to use individuals and people as grist and lubrication for it to continue.  The idea of capitalism and the desire to develop market economies of scale are constructed with the understanding that there will be individuals who are successful, but probably more that will not be in the position of economic success or power.  I think that this becomes something that that drives the economic system that perpetuates cycles of poverty on a continual basis.  Those who are new to it enter it believing the promises of economic growth, and while they are compensated for their work, it is minimal.

As economic standards become higher and higher because of factors such as inflation or cost of living, newly arrived immigrants find the most amount of challenge in that they are in the position of having to take any job that is available.  These jobs are ones that do not come attached with the promise of economic autonomy, for the most part.  At the same time, the immigrant's condition of wanting to "get in" as much as possible in this system is one that puts them in the position of being easily manipulated by those in the position of power.  In the end, this becomes what ends up driving the cycle of material progress for the select view and the cycle of poverty for others.  I think that one of the best works to display this would be Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. The conditions that apply to the Lithuanian couple Jurgis and Ona are textbook for why immigrants face difficulty in breaking the cycle of poverty.  Putting aside the ending of an embrace of socialism, the critique of capitalism is something that is quite applicable to the plight of new immigrants.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would like to argue this point about the poverty cycle. I can name many examples of people who were born into poverty and eventually, through hard work and thrifty living, were able lead a very comfortable lifestyle. One example is my father. He grew up in a dirt-floor shack in Mississippi; his family was so poor, he had to live on a local Indian reservation because his family could not feed all of the children. He did complete his high school education, though his grades were not good. He eventually joined the Army and, following World War II, began working for the local power company. He never made more than $17,000 annually, but when he died he had more than $200,000 in the bank and property worth even more. We lived a true middle class lifestyle, but we had few extravagances. Unlike people today, who only live for the moment, and who spend their money on as many trendy items as possible, my father looked to the future and saved part of each and every paycheck. It provided him with security for the future and a nest egg for his family and children.

People today who suffer from a background of poverty can still achieve the same results. It takes the foresight to take advantage of free public education, treat your job seriously, and live within your means. Simple ideas, yes, but they seem so difficult for many people to achieve in the 21st century.

In a capitalist society, we have several classes, socially and economically. To put it very simply we have upper class, middle class, lower or working class, and then those who are in poverty. If an individual was brought up in a situation where they are in poverty, they do not have the same resources as those who may have more social or economic resources to pull from. They then can not have the same lessons or education that some one else might, therefore they cannot end up with a good job or standing. They then continue this cycle with their own children and spouse who may be from their same economical group. This leads to a cycle which is very hard to break.