I read this recently… What do you think primarily causes poverty in the U.S.A.? Dave Ramsey in this article said the following:
“Poverty is caused and perpetuated primarily by some combination of three things:
1. Personal habits, choices and character;
3. The myriad of problems encountered if born in a third-world economy.”
I think there’s a wide variety of issues that affect and/or cause poverty. And I don’t have a solution for nor do I pretend to understand it all. However, I think Dave Ramsey’s thoughts are incomplete particularly in regards to external factors and circumstances. To expand a little on Dave’s ideas see below on numbers 1, 2, and 3. #4 is my addition.
1a. Personal habits – spending more than you make, Eating Junk food, lack of exercise, not having goals, continuing education/learning, lack of networking, watching excessive amounts of TV,
1b. Choices – drug use, alcoholism, education or lack of, welfare dependency (fatalist mentality), having too many children (without having the income to support said children)
1c. Character – laziness, lack of motivation, selfishness, lack of discipline, lack of responsibility...
What else comes to mind here?
2. Oppression by people taking advantage of the poor.
*The rich taking advantage of lack of knowledge/education of poor people
*The rich taking advantage of lack of understanding of laws of poor people
*The rich taking advantage of the rich (see BernieMadoff).
*The rich taking advantage of the middle class (see Jordan Belfort).
3. The myriad of problems encountered if born in a third-world economy. (Topic for another post I believe.)
4. External Factors and Circumstances –
*natural disasters (tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, etc.)
*degradation of environment (soil, water, deforestation, etc.),
*family of origin (where and when you are born),
*quality of education (depending on where you live),
*mental illnesses/disorders (anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders, addiction disorders, impulse control disorders, personality disorders, etc. such as: autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, phobias, ADHD, etc.)
*physical disabilities (thankfully there are laws protecting people with these challenges),
*general illnesses that are hard to prevent or are hereditary in nature (such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, etc.),
*economic trends (job market slow-down resulting among other things in loss of employment and fewer opportunities for employment)
While there are many examples of people who have risen out of poverty, the statistics say that 70% of those who are born in the bottom fifth never climb to even the middle of the economic ladder.
Dave Ramsey also said:
“If you are broke or poor in the U.S. or a first-world economy, the only variable in the discussion you can personally control is YOU. You can make better choices and have better results.”
From a Christian perspective DR is wrong as well. There is no guarantee in the Bible that we will be wealthy as Christians. I don’t believe God divides people as those who deserve to be rich and those who deserve to be poor. Blaming lack of wealth on lack of faith as some do (Benny Hinn) or lack of initiative (Dave Ramsey) isn’t right either. That said we CAN try to do our best (budget, have an emergency fund, track our expenses, save for the future, etc.) to be good stewards of what God has given us.
Bottom line: I don't believe that the ills of poverty can be condensed to 3 simple bullet points. It makes for a good sales pitch though. People want to hear that "if you do "A", then "B" will automatically happen. And so people sign up in droves. I see the same thing in infomercials promising to teach you how to make guaranteed money off the market. People want to hear that if they invest with Dave's guys, they can get 12% long-term annual growth. Same goes for poverty. If those three bullet points cause poverty, eliminate them from your life and you won't be in poverty, because you've eliminated the cause.