5 Reasons People in Poverty Stay in Poverty

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Everyone likes good rags to riches stories, whether it be a fairytale-like Aladdin, or real accounts of celebrities who used to be poor, or even homeless. The narrative of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps and achieving the American dream has been the subject of countless inspirational books and movies.

However, fiction is a far cry from reality, and in America, real-life rags to riches stories are much more the exception than the rule. According to a recent study, only a small percentage of low-income households ever break into the middle class, and a much smaller percentage will ever make it beyond middle income.

So, why is it so difficult for low-income families to break the cycle of poverty?

1. Credit

Living in a low-income household means that it can be difficult to pay loans, rent, and utilities on time. If any of these go unpaid for a long enough period, they will affect one’s credit score, which will then make it more difficult to secure loans for housing or vehicles. What’s more, late fees can stack up and make it even more difficult to pay for everyday living expenses.

2. Vehicles

It’s challenging to work your way up the income ladder without reliable transportation. However, for many, a vehicle (and the accompanying insurance) are too far beyond their financial grasp, and so they are forced to work for companies that are within walking distance or reachable by public transportation.

While some people in the lower-income tier can afford a car, the typical quality of vehicles in their price range leaves much to be desired. Many of these vehicles are old, unreliable, and marred with mechanical issues, which can result in multiple expensive repairs down the road.

3. Education

Many jobs that pay middle-class wages require some form of higher education. However, college costs money, and if someone is born into a low-income family when one or both of their parents aren’t college-educated, higher education can be difficult to afford.

What’s more, scientists have recently discovered that the mental burden of living in poverty is akin to losing 13 IQ points, which can make it difficult for high school students in low-income households to earn the grades they need in order to be eligible for grants and scholarships.

4. Unexpected expenses

For the upper and middle class, getting sick or replacing a broken appliance is a minor financial nuisance. However, for low-income households, illness, vehicle repairs, and other unforeseen costs can mean the difference between the ability and inability to afford rent, fuel, or even food.

5. Simple pleasures

Many people question behaviors that low-income individuals exhibit, such as spending money on non-essential items like games, alcohol, and jewelry. While it seems like these are unnecessary expenses, especially given a low-income person’s financial plight, a recent post on Kinja’s blogging platform by a person living in poverty gave some insight as to why people in low-income situations make their decisions:

“It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to. There's a certain pull to live what bits of life you can while there's money in your pocket because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway.”

Make a donation to help low-income families in need

At Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana, we offer shelters, affordable housing, and community services to help low-income families return to a self-sufficient, stable lifestyle in all of the Ohio communities we serve.

If you’d like to help fund these programs, there are several options. Consider a monthly donation! Giving monthly provides a sustainable long-term impact for our programs. Can't commit to a monthly donation? If you’re the owner of an extra, unused vehicle, please make a car donation. Running or not, we’ll take almost anything with a motor, including motorcycles, trucks, boats, and RVs. We can arrange free same-day towing to pick it up, and you might get more money off of your vehicle as a tax-deductible donation than you would by selling it privately.