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1.2 Defining Poverty

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Defining Words
In some cases, words can be defined simply by looking them up in the dictionary. In other cases, words can be so complex that they cannot be easily defined. POVERTY is one of those words that require extended definitions to understand.

In this lesson, we will introduce the course topic and begin brainstorming ideas on poverty.

The Endless Cycle of Poverty

People born into poverty tend to be caught in its endless cycle. It is not so much the lack of money or opportunities that prevent people from escaping, but the lack of knowing what to do and having the ability to do it.
Stories, such as the one about Liz Murray (See The Guardian), tell us if someone can see past the present, they can find a way of escape. Unfortunately, most people cannot see beyond what they learned from their parents. What they see as children entraps them in the same practices.

Discuss the following questions

  1. Do you think it is difficult to escape from poverty?  Why?
  2. Do you think poverty always has negative effects on people, or sometimes can it have positive effects on people?
  3. Look at the photo below.  What do you think this girl will need to escape poverty?

Cause and Effect

When we talk about the cause of something, we are talking about the reasons why it happened.  When we talk about the effects, we are talking about the results. For example, if we do not hear the alarm clock, we will probably get up late. Not hearing the alarm is the cause; getting up late is the effect. If we drop a glass, it will probably break. Dropping the glass is the cause; the glass breaking is the effect.

In terms of poverty, losing a job can be a cause, or a reason, and becoming homeless can be an effect, or a result.  In turn, becoming homeless can also be a cause, and being hungry can be the effect.


  1. Download the two handouts below: Poverty and People  and Cause and Effect.  Answer the discussion questions and keep them in your notes.  Then begin a list of the causes and effects of poverty.
  2. Take the lesson quiz on today’s discussion.
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