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Education in Belén

Dr. Jim Penn
Gift of Dr. Jim Penn
Artworks - Height: 10.5 in Width: 13.5 in
A young girl in a school uniform and a backpack stands on a log looking across a body of water to some buildings.
Historical Context:
In the Itaya River port of Belén, Peru, residents are well aware that education can provide an exit out of this large and dirty slum. Thousands of children must get to school by boat or canoe, especially during the high water season, and then carefully navigate by foot through the mud and filth that can quickly soil their strikingly clean school uniforms.

Wikipedia Summary:

Belén District is one of thirteen districts of the Maynas Province in Peru. Belén (Spanish for Bethlehem) lies at the edge of the city of Iquitos, in the floodplain of the Itaya River. It is home to some 65,000 people, most of them poor, and many of whom live in extreme poverty. The housing has neither clean water, proper sanitation, nor electric power distribution.

Many of the residents of Belén are people who lived in the forest, but who came to Iquitos in search of work and formal education for themselves and their families. Nevertheless, unemployment rates are high. Men might hunt, fish, or trade for their livelihood, while women resell small quantities of produce, such as aguaje. Some of those with more means shuttle goods via small motorboats between the forest hamlets and the city, dealing in such commodities as coffee, rice, sugar, gasoline, forest crops, and animal products. Uphill of the river is Mercado Belén, a large, open-air marketplace where vendors sell produce, meat, fish, spices, flowers, folk medicine, prepared foods, and manufactured goods. Brick-and-mortar storefronts also line the streets of the marketplace.

An estimated 60,000 people more live across the river in outlying areas, also without electricity, water, or sanitation. Most homes either float or are built on stilts, as the river level rises 5–6 meters from February through July. Travel books have described Belén as the “Venice of Latin America”. In Pueblo Libre, a section of Belén on the waterfront, approximately 14,000 people—30% of whom are under age 12—live in a busy river port, where charcoal, bananas, fish, and other goods are brought (mostly by canoe) to be distributed and sold throughout Belén.

The people of Belén live in overcrowded conditions. 90% of homes house two or more families; some homes as many as five. The people of Belén are at risk for contracting malaria, dengue fever, water-borne illnesses, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and HIV. They are also affected by social problems of severe poverty, such as alcoholism, crime, prostitution, unemployment, domestic violence, and child abuse. Years of deteriorating conditions in Belén have fostered widespread frustration and hopelessness among the residents.


Peru (/pəˈr/; Spanish: Perú [peɾu]; Quechua: Piruw [pɪɾʊw]; Aymara: Piruw [pɪɾʊw]), officially the Republic of Peru (Spanish:  República del Perú ), is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is an extremely biodiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.

Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. Ideas of political autonomy later spread throughout Spanish America and Peru gained its independence, which was formally proclaimed in 1821. After the battle of Ayacucho, three years after proclamation, Peru ensured its independence. After achieving independence, the country remained in recession and kept a low military profile until an economic rise based on the extraction of raw and maritime materials struck the country, which ended shortly before the war of the Pacific. Subsequently, the country has undergone changes in government from oligarchic to democratic systems. Peru has gone through periods of political unrest and internal conflict as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.

Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 25.8 percent. Its main economic activities include mining, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing.

The Peruvian population, estimated at 31.2 million in 2015, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music.


The name of the country may be derived from Birú, the name of a local ruler who lived near the Bay of San Miguel, Panama, in the early 16th century. When his possessions were visited by Spanish explorers in 1522, they were the southernmost part of the New World yet known to Europeans. Thus, when Francisco Pizarro explored the regions farther south, they came to be designated Birú or Perú.

An alternative history is provided by the contemporary writer Inca Garcilasco de la Vega, son of an Inca princess and a conquistador. He said the name Birú was that of a common Indian happened upon by the crew of a ship on an exploratory mission for governor Pedro Arias de Ávila, and went on to relate more instances of misunderstandings due to the lack of a common language.

The Spanish Crown gave the name legal status with the 1529 Capitulación de Toledo, which designated the newly encountered Inca Empire as the province of Peru. Under Spanish rule, the country adopted the denomination Viceroyalty of Peru, which became Republic of Peru after independence.


Prehistory and pre-Columbian period

The earliest evidences of human presence in Peruvian territory have been dated to approximately 9,000 BC. Andean societies were based on agriculture, using techniques such as irrigation and terracing; camelid husbandry and fishing were also important. Organization relied on reciprocity and redistribution because these societies had no notion of market or money. The oldest known complex society in Peru, the Norte Chico civilization, flourished along the coast of the Pacific Ocean between 3,000 and 1,800 BC. These early developments were followed by archaeological cultures that developed mostly around the coastal and Andean regions throughout Peru. The Cupisnique culture which flourished from around 1000 to 200 BC along what is now Peru's Pacific Coast was an example of early pre-Incan culture. The Chavín culture that developed from 1500 to 300 BC was probably more of a religious than a political phenomenon, with their religious centre in Chavin de Huantar. After the decline of the Chavin culture around the beginning of the Christian millennium, a series of localized and specialized cultures rose and fell, both on the coast and in the highlands, during the next thousand years. On the coast, these included the civilizations of the Paracas, Nazca, Wari, and the more outstanding Chimu and Mochica. The Mochica, who reached their apogee in the first millennium AD, were renowned for their irrigation system which fertilized their arid terrain, their sophisticated ceramic pottery, their lofty buildings, and clever metalwork. The Chimu were the great city builders of pre-Inca civilization; as loose confederation of cities scattered along the coast of northern Peru and southern Ecuador, the Chimu flourished from about 1150 to 1450. Their capital was at Chan Chan outside of modern-day Trujillo. In the highlands, both the Tiahuanaco culture, near Lake Titicaca in both Peru and Bolivia, and the Wari culture, near the present-day city of Ayacucho, developed large urban settlements and wide-ranging state systems between 500 and 1000 AD.

In the 15th century, the Incas emerged as a powerful state which, in the span of a century, formed the largest empire in pre-Columbian America with their capital in Cusco. The Incas of Cusco originally represented one of the small and relatively minor ethnic groups, the Quechuas. Gradually, as early as the thirteenth century, they began to expand and incorporate their neighbors. Inca expansion was slow until about the middle of the fifteenth century, when the pace of conquest began to accelerate, particularly under the rule of the great emperor Pachacuti. Under his rule and that of his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui, the Incas came to control most of the Andean region, with a population of 9 to 16 million inhabitants under their rule. Pachacuti also promulgated a comprehensive code of laws to govern his far-flung empire, while consolidating his absolute temporal and spiritual authority as the God of the Sun who ruled from a magnificently rebuilt Cusco. From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, from southern Colombia to Chile, between the Pacific Ocean in the west and the Amazon rainforest in the east. The official language of the empire was Quechua, although hundreds of local languages and dialects were spoken. The Inca referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu which can be translated as "The Four Regions" or "The Four United Provinces." Many local forms of worship persisted in the empire, most of them concerning local sacred Huacas, but the Inca leadership encouraged the worship of Inti, the sun god and imposed its sovereignty above other cults such as that of Pachamama. The Incas considered their King, the Sapa Inca, to be the "child of the sun."

Conquest and colonial period

Atahualpa, the last Sapa Inca became emperor when he defeated and executed his older half-brother Huascar in a civil war sparked by the death of their father, Inca Huayna Capac. In December 1532, a party of conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro defeated and captured the Inca Emperor Atahualpa in the Battle of Cajamarca. The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. After years of preliminary exploration and military conflicts, it was the first step in a long campaign that took decades of fighting but ended in Spanish victory and colonization of the region known as the Viceroyalty of Peru with its capital at Lima, which became known as "The City of Kings". The conquest of the Inca Empire led to spin-off campaigns throughout the viceroyalty as well as expeditions towards the Amazon Basin as in the case of Spanish efforts to quell Amerindian resistance. The last Inca resistance was suppressed when the Spaniards annihilated the Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba in 1572.

The indigenous population dramatically collapsed principally due to epidemic diseases introduced by the Spanish. Exploitation and socioeconomic change also contributed to the collapse. Viceroy Francisco de Toledo reorganized the country in the 1570s with gold and silver mining as its main economic activity and Amerindian forced labor as its primary workforce. With the discovery of the great silver and gold lodes at Potosí (present-day Bolivia) and Huancavelica, the viceroyalty flourished as an important provider of mineral resources. Peruvian bullion provided revenue for the Spanish Crown and fueled a complex trade network that extended as far as Europe and the Philippines. Because of lack of available work force, African slaves were added to the labor population. The expansion of a colonial administrative apparatus and bureaucracy paralleled the economic reorganization. With the conquest started the spread of Christianity in South America; most people were forcefully converted to Catholicism, taking only a generation to convert the population. They built churches in every city and replaced some of the Inca temples with churches, such as the Coricancha in the city of Cusco. The church employed the Inquisition, making use of torture to ensure that newly converted Catholics did not stray to other religions or beliefs. Peruvian Catholicism follows the syncretism found in many Latin American countries, in which religious native rituals have been integrated with Christian celebrations. In this endeavor, the church came to play an important role in the acculturation of the natives, drawing them into the cultural orbit of the Spanish settlers.

By the 18th century, declining silver production and economic diversification greatly diminished royal income. In response, the Crown enacted the Bourbon Reforms, a series of edicts that increased taxes and partitioned the Viceroyalty. The new laws provoked Túpac Amaru II's rebellion and other revolts, all of which were suppressed. As a result of these and other changes, the Spaniards and their creole successors came to monopolize control over the land, seizing many of the best lands abandoned by the massive native depopulation. However, the Spanish did not resist the Portuguese expansion of Brazil across the meridian. The Treaty of Tordesillas was rendered meaningless between 1580 and 1640 while Spain controlled Portugal. The need to ease communication and trade with Spain led to the split of the viceroyalty and the creation of new viceroyalties of New Granada and Rio de la Plata at the expense of the territories that formed the viceroyalty of Peru; this reduced the power, prominence and importance of Lima as the viceroyal capital and shifted the lucrative Andean trade to Buenos Aires and Bogotá, while the fall of the mining and textile production accelerated the progressive decay of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

Eventually, the viceroyalty would dissolve, as with much of the Spanish empire, when challenged by national independence movements at the beginning of the nineteenth century. These movements led to the formation of the majority of modern-day countries of South America in the territories that at one point or another had constituted the Viceroyalty of Peru. The conquest and colony brought a mix of cultures and ethnicities that did not exist before the Spanish conquered the Peruvian territory. Even though many of the Inca traditions were lost or diluted, new customs, traditions and knowledge were added, creating a rich mixed Peruvian culture.


In the early 19th century, while most of South America was swept by wars of independence, Peru remained a royalist stronghold. As the elite vacillated between emancipation and loyalty to the Spanish Monarchy, independence was achieved only after the occupation by military campaigns of José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar.

The economic crises, the loss of power of Spain in Europe, the war of independence in North America and native uprisings all contributed to a favorable climate to the development of emancipating ideas among the criollo population in South America. However, the criollo oligarchy in Peru enjoyed privileges and remained loyal to the Spanish Crown. The liberation movement started in Argentina where autonomous juntas were created as a result of the loss of authority of the Spanish government over its colonies.

After fighting for the independence of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, José de San Martín created the Army of the Andes and crossed the Andes in 21 days, a great accomplishment in military history. Once in Chile he joined forces with Chilean army General Bernardo O’Higgins and liberated the country in the battles of Chacabuco and Maipú in 1818. On 7 September 1820, a fleet of eight warships arrived in the port of Paracas under the command of general Jose de San Martin and Thomas Cochrane, who was serving in the Chilean Navy. Immediately on 26 October they took control of the town of Pisco. San Martin settled in Huacho on 12 November, where he established his headquarters while Cochrane sailed north blockading the port of Callao in Lima. At the same time in the north, Guayaquil was occupied by rebel forces under the command of Gregorio Escobedo. Because Peru was the stronghold of the Spanish government in South America, San Martin’s strategy to liberate Peru was to use diplomacy. He sent representatives to Lima urging the Viceroy that Peru be granted independence, however all negotiations proved unsuccessful.

The Viceroy of Peru, Joaquin de la Pazuela named Jose de la Serna commander-in-chief of the loyalist army to protect Lima from the threatened invasion of San Martin. On 29 January, de la Serna organized a coup against de la Pazuela which was recognized by Spain and he was named Viceroy of Peru. This internal power struggle contributed to the success of the liberating army. In order to avoid a military confrontation San Martin met the newly appointed viceroy, Jose de la Serna, and proposed to create a constitutional monarchy, a proposal that was turned down. De la Serna abandoned the city and on 12 July 1821 San Martin occupied Lima and declared Peruvian independence on 28 July 1821. He created the first Peruvian flag. Alto Peru (Bolivia) remained as a Spanish stronghold until the army of Simón Bolívar liberated it three years later. Jose de San Martin was declared Protector of Peru. Peruvian national identity was forged during this period, as Bolivarian projects for a Latin American Confederation floundered and a union with Bolivia proved ephemeral.

Simon Bolivar launched his campaign from the north liberating the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the Battles of Carabobo in 1821 and Pichincha a year later. In July 1822 Bolivar and San Martin gathered in the Guayaquil Conference. Bolivar was left in charge of fully liberating Peru while San Martin retired from politics after the first parliament was assembled. The newly founded Peruvian Congress named Bolivar dictator of Peru giving him the power to organize the military.

With the help of Antonio José de Sucre they defeated the larger Spanish army in the Battle of Junín on 6 August 1824 and the decisive Battle of Ayacucho on 9 December of the same year, consolidating the independence of Peru and Alto Peru. Alto Peru was later established as Bolivia. During the early years of the Republic, endemic struggles for power between military leaders caused political instability.

19th century to present

From the 1840s to the 1860s, Peru enjoyed a period of stability under the presidency of Ramón Castilla, through increased state revenues from guano exports. However, by the 1870s, these resources had been depleted, the country was heavily indebted, and political in-fighting was again on the rise. Peru embarked on a railroad-building program that helped but also bankrupted the country. In 1879, Peru entered the War of the Pacific which lasted until 1884. Bolivia invoked its alliance with Peru against Chile. The Peruvian Government tried to mediate the dispute by sending a diplomatic team to negotiate with the Chilean government, but the committee concluded that war was inevitable. Chile declared war on 5 April 1879. Almost five years of war ended with the loss of the department of Tarapacá and the provinces of Tacna and Arica, in the Atacama region. Two outstanding military leaders throughout the war were Francisco Bolognesi and Miguel Grau. Originally Chile committed to a referendum for the cities of Arica and Tacna to be held years later, in order to self determine their national affiliation. However, Chile refused to apply the Treaty, and neither of the countries could determine the statutory framework. After the War of the Pacific, an extraordinary effort of rebuilding began. The government started to initiate a number of social and economic reforms in order to recover from the damage of the war. Political stability was achieved only in the early 1900s.

Internal struggles after the war were followed by a period of stability under the Civilista Party, which lasted until the onset of the authoritarian regime of Augusto B. Leguía. The Great Depression caused the downfall of Leguía, renewed political turmoil, and the emergence of the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). The rivalry between this organization and a coalition of the elite and the military defined Peruvian politics for the following three decades. A final peace treaty in 1929, signed between Peru and Chile called the Treaty of Lima, returned Tacna to Peru. Between 1932 and 1933, Peru was engulfed in a year-long war with Colombia over a territorial dispute involving the Amazonas department and its capital Leticia. Later, in 1941, Peru became involved in the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War, after which the Rio Protocol sought to formalize the boundary between those two countries. In a military coup on 29 October 1948, Gen. Manuel A. Odria became president. Odría's presidency was known as the Ochenio. Momentarily pleasing the oligarchy and all others on the right, but followed a populist course that won him great favor with the poor and lower classes. A thriving economy allowed him to indulge in expensive but crowd-pleasing social policies. At the same time, however, civil rights were severely restricted and corruption was rampant throughout his régime. Odría was succeeded by Manuel Prado Ugarteche. However, widespread allegations of fraud prompted the Peruvian military to depose Prado and install a military junta, led by Ricardo Pérez Godoy. Godoy ran a short transitional government and held new elections in 1963, which were won by Fernando Belaúnde Terry who assumed presidency until 1968. Belaúnde was recognized for his commitment to the democratic process. In 1968, the Armed Forces, led by General Juan Velasco Alvarado, staged a coup against Belaúnde. Alvarado's regime undertook radical reforms aimed at fostering development, but failed to gain widespread support. In 1975, General Francisco Morales Bermúdez forcefully replaced Velasco, paralyzed reforms, and oversaw the reestablishment of democracy.

Peru engaged in a brief successful conflict with Ecuador in the Paquisha War as a result of territorial dispute between the two countries. After the country experienced chronic inflation, the Peruvian currency, the sol, was replaced by the Inti in mid-1985, which itself was replaced by the nuevo sol in July 1991, at which time the new sol had a cumulative value of one billion old soles. The per capita annual income of Peruvians fell to $720 (below the level of 1960) and Peru's GDP dropped 20% at which national reserves were a negative $900 million. The economic turbulence of the time acerbated social tensions in Peru and partly contributed to the rise of violent rebel rural insurgent movements, like Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and MRTA, which caused great havoc throughout the country. Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso and MRTA, and allegations of official corruption, Alberto Fujimori assumed presidency in 1990. Fujimori implemented drastic measures that caused inflation to drop from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991. Faced with opposition to his reform efforts, Fujimori dissolved Congress in the auto-golpe ("self-coup") of 5 April 1992. He then revised the constitution; called new congressional elections; and implemented substantial economic reform, including privatization of numerous state-owned companies, creation of an investment-friendly climate, and sound management of the economy. Fujimori's administration was dogged by insurgent groups, most notably the Sendero Luminoso, who carried out terrorist campaigns across the country throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Fujimori cracked down on the insurgents and was successful in largely quelling them by the late 1990s, but the fight was marred by atrocities committed by both the Peruvian security forces and the insurgents: the Barrios Altos massacre and La Cantuta massacre by Government paramilitary groups, and the bombings of Tarata and Frecuencia Latina by Sendero Luminoso. Those incidents subsequently came to symbolize the human rights violations committed in the last years of violence.

During early 1995, once again Peru and Ecuador clashed in the Cenepa War, but in 1998 the governments of both nations signed a peace treaty that clearly demarcated the international boundary between them. In November 2000, Fujimori resigned from office and went into a self-imposed exile, avoiding prosecution for human rights violations and corruption charges by the new Peruvian authorities. Since the end of the Fujimori regime, Peru has tried to fight corruption while sustaining economic growth. In spite of human rights progress since the time of insurgency, many problems are still visible and show the continued marginalization of those who suffered through the violence of the Peruvian conflict.

A caretaker government presided over by Valentín Paniagua took on the responsibility of conducting new presidential and congressional elections. Afterwards Alejandro Toledo became president in 2001 to 2006.

On 28 July 2006 former president Alan García became President of Peru after winning the 2006 elections. In May 2008, Peru became a member of the Union of South American Nations.

On 5 June 2011, Ollanta Humala was elected President.

Government and politics


Peru is a Presidential representative democratic republic with a multi-party system. Under the current constitution, the President is the head of state and government; he or she is elected for five years and cannot serve consecutive terms. The President designates the Prime Minister and, with his or her advice, the rest of the Council of Ministers. Congress is unicameral with 130 members elected for five-year terms. Bills may be proposed by either the executive or the legislative branch; they become law after being passed by Congress and promulgated by the President. The judiciary is nominally independent, though political intervention into judicial matters has been common throughout history and arguably continues today.

The Peruvian government is directly elected, and voting is compulsory for all citizens aged 18 to 70. Congress is currently composed of Gana Perú (47 seats), Fuerza 2011 (37 seats), Alianza Parlamentaria (20 seats), Alianza por el Gran Cambio (12 seats), Solidaridad Nacional (8 seats) and Concertación Parlamentaria (6 seats).

Foreign relations

Peruvian foreign relations have historically been dominated by border conflicts with neighboring countries, most of which were settled during the 20th century. Recently, Peru disputed its maritime limits with Chile in the Pacific Ocean. Peru is an active member of several regional blocs and one of the founders of the Andean Community of Nations. It is also a participant in international organizations such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar served as UN Secretary General from 1981 to 1991. Former President Fujimori’s tainted re-election to a third term in June 2000 strained Peru's relations with the United States and with many Latin American and European countries, but relations improved with the installation of an interim government in November 2000 and the inauguration of Alejandro Toledo in July 2001 after free and fair elections.

Peru is planning full integration into the Andean Free Trade Area. In addition, Peru is a standing member of APEC and the World Trade Organization, and is an active participant in negotiations toward a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

Military and law enforcement

The Peruvian Armed Forces are the military services of Peru, comprising independent Army, Navy and Air Force components. Their primary mission is to safeguard the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. As a secondary mission they participate in economic and social development as well as in civil defense tasks. Conscription was abolished in 1999 and replaced by voluntary military service. The armed forces are subordinate to the Ministry of Defense and to the President as Commander-in-Chief.

The National Police of Peru is often classified as a part of the armed forces. Although in fact it has a different organization and a wholly civil mission, its training and activities over more than two decades as an anti-terrorist force have produced markedly military characteristics, giving it the appearance of a virtual fourth military service with significant land, sea and air capabilities and approximately 140,000 personnel. The Peruvian armed forces report through the Ministry of Defense, while the National Police of Peru reports through the Ministry of Interior.

Administrative divisions

Peru is divided into 25 regions and the province of Lima. Each region has an elected government composed of a president and council that serve four-year terms. These governments plan regional development, execute public investment projects, promote economic activities, and manage public property. The province of Lima is administered by a city council. The goal of devolving power to regional and municipal governments was among others to improve popular participation. NGOs played an important role in the decentralization process and still influence local politics.



  • Lima Province

Metropolitan areas

Several metropolitan areas are defined for Peru - these overlap the district areas, and have limited authority. The largest of them, the Lima Metropolitan Area, is the seventh largest metropolis in the Americas.


Peru covers 1,285,216 km2 (496,225 sq mi) of western South America. It borders Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil to the east, Bolivia to the southeast, Chile to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The Andes mountains run parallel to the Pacific Ocean; they define the three regions traditionally used to describe the country geographically. The costa (coast), to the west, is a narrow plain, largely arid except for valleys created by seasonal rivers. The sierra (highlands) is the region of the Andes; it includes the Altiplano plateau as well as the highest peak of the country, the 6,768 m (22,205 ft) Huascarán. The third region is the selva (jungle), a wide expanse of flat terrain covered by the Amazon rainforest that extends east. Almost 60 percent of the country's area is located within this region.

Most Peruvian rivers originate in the peaks of the Andes and drain into one of three basins. Those that drain toward the Pacific Ocean are steep and short, flowing only intermittently. Tributaries of the Amazon River have a much larger flow, and are longer and less steep once they exit the sierra. Rivers that drain into Lake Titicaca are generally short and have a large flow. Peru's longest rivers are the Ucayali, the Marañón, the Putumayo, the Yavarí, the Huallaga, the Urubamba, the Mantaro, and the Amazon.

The largest lake in Peru, Lake Titicaca between Peru and Bolivia high in the Andes, is also the largest of South America. The largest reservoirs, all in the coastal region of Peru, are the Poechos, Tinajones, San Lorenzo, and El Fraile reservoirs.


The combination of tropical latitude, mountain ranges, topography variations, and two ocean currents (Humboldt and El Niño) gives Peru a large diversity of climates. The coastal region has moderate temperatures, low precipitations, and high humidity, except for its warmer, wetter northern reaches. In the mountain region, rain is frequent in summer, and temperature and humidity diminish with altitude up to the frozen peaks of the Andes. The Peruvian Amazon is characterized by heavy rainfall and high temperatures, except for its southernmost part, which has cold winters and seasonal rainfall.


Because of its varied geography and climate, Peru has a high biodiversity with 21,462 species of plants and animals reported as of 2003, 5,855 of them endemic. Peru has over 1,800 species of birds (120 endemic), and 500 species of mammals and over 300 species of reptiles. The hundreds of mammals include rare species like the puma, jaguar and spectacled bear. The Birds of Peru produce large amounts of guano, an economically important export. The Pacific holds large quantities of sea bass, flounder, anchovies, tuna, crustaceans, and shellfish, and is home to many sharks, sperm whales, and whales.

Peru also has an equally diverse flora. The coastal deserts produce little more than cacti, apart from hilly fog oases and river valleys that contain unique plant life. The Highlands above the tree-line known as puna is home to bushes, cactus, drought-resistant plants such as ichu, and the largest species of bromeliad - the spectacular Puya raimondii. The cloud-forest slopes of the Andes sustain moss, orchids, and bromeliads, and the Amazon rainforest is known for its variety of trees and canopy plants.

Economy and infrastructure

The economy of Peru is classified as upper middle income by the World Bank and is the 39th largest in the world. Peru is, as of 2011, one of the world's fastest-growing economies owing to the economic boom experienced during the 2000s. It has a high Human Development Index of .752 based on 2011 data. Historically, the country's economic performance has been tied to exports, which provide hard currency to finance imports and external debt payments. Although they have provided substantial revenue, self-sustained growth and a more egalitarian distribution of income have proven elusive. According to 2010 data, 31.3% of its total population is poor, including 9.8% that lives in extreme poverty. Inflation in 2012 was the lowest in Latin America at only 1.8%, but increased in 2013 as oil and commodity prices rose; as of 2014 it stands at 2.5%. The unemployment rate has fallen steadily in recent years, and as of 2012 stands at 3.6%.

Peruvian economic policy has varied widely over the past decades. The 1968–1975 government of Juan Velasco Alvarado introduced radical reforms, which included agrarian reform, the expropriation of foreign companies, the introduction of an economic planning system, and the creation of a large state-owned sector. These measures failed to achieve their objectives of income redistribution and the end of economic dependence on developed nations.

Despite these results, most reforms were not reversed until the 1990s, when the liberalizing government of Alberto Fujimori ended price controls, protectionism, restrictions on foreign direct investment, and most state ownership of companies. Reforms have permitted sustained economic growth since 1993, except for a slump after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Services account for 53% of Peruvian gross domestic product, followed by manufacturing (22.3%), extractive industries (15%), and taxes (9.7%). Recent economic growth has been fueled by macroeconomic stability, improved terms of trade, and rising investment and consumption. Trade is expected to increase further after the implementation of a free trade agreement with the United States signed on 12 April 2006. Peru's main exports are copper, gold, zinc, textiles, and fish meal; its major trade partners are the United States, China, Brazil, and Chile.

Water supply and sanitation

The water and sanitation sector in Peru has made important advances in the last two decades, including the increase of water coverage from 30% to 85% between 1980 and 2010. Sanitation coverage has also increased from 9% to 37% from 1985 to 2010 in rural areas. Advances have also been achieved concerning the disinfection of drinking water and in sewage treatment. Nevertheless, many challenges remain, such as:

  • Insufficient service coverage;
  • Poor service quality which puts the population’s health at risk;
  • Deficient sustainability of built systems;
  • Tariffs that do not cover the investment and operational costs, as well as the maintenance of services;
  • Institutional and financial weakness; and,
  • Excess of human resources, poorly qualified, and high staff turnover.



Ethnic groups

Peru is a multiethnic nation formed by the combination of different groups over five centuries. Amerindians inhabited Peruvian territory for several millennia before Spanish Conquest in the 16th century; according to historian Noble David Cook their population decreased from nearly 5–9 million in the 1520s to around 600,000 in 1620 mainly because of infectious diseases. Spaniards and Africans arrived in large numbers under colonial rule, mixing widely with each other and with indigenous peoples. After independence, there has been gradual immigration from England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Chinese and Japanese arrived in the 1850s as a replacement for slave workers and have since become a major influence in Peruvian society.

Population genetics

According to a 2015 genealogical DNA testing, the average Peruvian is estimated to be 79.1% Native American, 19.8% European, and 1.1% Sub-Saharan African overall.


With about 31.2 million inhabitants, Peru is the fifth most populous country in South America. Its demographic growth rate declined from 2.6% to 1.6% between 1950 and 2000; population is expected to reach approximately 42 million in 2050. As of 2007, 75.9% lived in urban areas and 24.1% in rural areas. Major cities include the Lima Metropolitan Area (home to over 9.8 million people), Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Piura, Iquitos, Cusco, Chimbote, and Huancayo; all reported more than 250,000 inhabitants in the 2007 census. There are 15 uncontacted Amerindian tribes in Peru.


According to the Peruvian Constitution of 1993, Peru's official languages are Spanish and Quechua, Aymara and other indigenous languages in areas where they predominate. Spanish is spoken by 84.1% of the population and Quechua by 13%, Aymara by 1.7% while other languages make up the remaining 1.2%.

Spanish is used by the government and is the mainstream language of the country, which is used by the media and in educational systems and commerce. Amerindians who live in the Andean highlands speak Quechua and Aymara and are ethnically distinct from the diverse indigenous groups who live on the eastern side of the Andes and in the tropical lowlands adjacent to the Amazon basin. Peru's distinct geographical regions are mirrored in a language divide between the coast where Spanish is more predominant over the Amerindian languages, and the more diverse traditional Andean cultures of the mountains and highlands. The indigenous populations east of the Andes speak various languages and dialects. Some of these groups still adhere to traditional indigenous languages, while others have been almost completely assimilated into the Spanish language. There has been an increasing and organized effort to teach Quechua in public schools in the areas where Quechua is spoken. In the Peruvian Amazon, numerous indigenous languages are spoken, including Asháninka, Bora, and Aguaruna.


In the 2007 census, 81.3% of the population over 12 years old described themselves as Catholic, 12.5% as Evangelical Protestant, 3.3% as other Protestant, Judaism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and Jehovah's Witness, and 2.9% as non-religious. Literacy was estimated at 92.9% in 2007; this rate is lower in rural areas (80.3%) than in urban areas (96.3%). Primary and secondary education are compulsory and free in public schools.

Amerindian religious traditions also play a major role in the beliefs of Peruvians. Catholic festivities like Corpus Christi, holy week and Christmas sometimes blend with Amerindian traditions. Amerindian festivities which were celebrated since pre-Columbian times are also widespread throughout the nation. Inti Raymi, which is an old Inca festival, is still celebrated.

The majority of towns, cities and villages have their own official church or cathedral and patron saint.


Peruvian culture is primarily rooted in Amerindian and Spanish traditions, though it has also been influenced by various Asian, African, and other European ethnic groups. Peruvian artistic traditions date back to the elaborate pottery, textiles, jewelry, and sculpture of Pre-Inca cultures. The Incas maintained these crafts and made architectural achievements including the construction of Machu Picchu. Baroque dominated colonial art, though modified by native traditions.

During this period, most art focused on religious subjects; the numerous churches of the era and the paintings of the Cuzco School are representative. Arts stagnated after independence until the emergence of Indigenismo in the early 20th century. Since the 1950s, Peruvian art has been eclectic and shaped by both foreign and local art currents.

Peruvian literature is rooted in the oral traditions of pre-Columbian civilizations. Spaniards introduced writing in the 16th century; colonial literary expression included chronicles and religious literature. After independence, Costumbrism and Romanticism became the most common literary genres, as exemplified in the works of Ricardo Palma. The early 20th century's Indigenismo movement was led by such writers as Ciro Alegría and José María Arguedas. César Vallejo wrote modernist and often politically engaged verse. Modern Peruvian literature is recognized thanks to authors such as Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, a leading member of the Latin American Boom.

Peruvian cuisine blends Amerindian and Spanish food with strong influences from Chinese, African, Arab, Italian, and Japanese cooking. Common dishes include anticuchos, ceviche, and pachamanca. Peru's varied climate allows the growth of diverse plants and animals good for cooking. Peru's diversity of ingredients and cooking techniques is receiving worldwide acclaim.

Peruvian music has Andean, Spanish, and African roots. In pre-Hispanic times, musical expressions varied widely in each region; the quena and the tinya were two common instruments. Spaniards introduced new instruments, such as the guitar and the harp, which led to the development of crossbred instruments like the charango. African contributions to Peruvian music include its rhythms and the cajón, a percussion instrument. Peruvian folk dances include marinera, tondero, zamacueca, diablada and huayno.

See also

  • Cerro de Pasco
  • Yanacocha
  • Toquepala mine
  • Cuajone mine
  • Quellaveco mine



  • Bailey, Gauvin Alexander. Art of colonial Latin America. London: Phaidon, 2005, ISBN 0714841579.
  • Constitución Política del Perú. 29 December 1993.
  • Custer, Tony. The Art of Peruvian Cuisine. Lima: Ediciones Ganesha, 2003, ISBN 9972920305.
  • Garland, Gonzalo. "Perú Siglo XXI", series of 11 working papers describing sectorial long-term forecasts, Grade, Lima, Peru, 1986-1987.
  • Garland, Gonzalo. Peru in the 21st Century: Challenges and Possibilities in Futures: the Journal of Forecasting, Planning and Policy, Volume 22, Nº 4, Butterworth-Heinemann, London, England, May 1990.
  • Gootenberg, Paul. (1991) Between silver and guano: commercial policy and the state in postindependence Peru. Princeton: Princeton University Press ISBN 0691023425.
  • Gootenberg, Paul. (1993) Imagining development: economic ideas in Peru's "fictitious prosperity" of Guano, 1840–1880. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, 0520082907.
  • Higgins, James (editor). The Emancipation of Peru: British Eyewitness Accounts, 2014. Online at
  • Instituto de Estudios Histórico–Marítimos del Perú. El Perú y sus recursos: Atlas geográfico y económico. Lima: Auge, 1996.
  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. "Perú: Compendio Estadístico 2005" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-03-07.  (8.31 MB). Lima: INEI, 2005.
  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. Perfil sociodemográfico del Perú. Lima: INEI, 2008.
  • Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. Perú: Estimaciones y Proyecciones de Población, 1950–2050. Lima: INEI, 2001.
  • Klarén, Peter. Peru: society and nationhood in the Andes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 0195069285.
  • Ley N° 27178, Ley del Servicio Militar DOC. 28 September 1999.
  • Ley N° 27867, Ley Ley Orgánica de Gobiernos Regionales. 16 November 2002.
  • Martin, Gerald. "Literature, music and the visual arts, c. 1820–1870". In: Leslie Bethell (ed.), A cultural history of Latin America. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1998, pp. 3–45.
  • Martin, Gerald. "Narrative since c. 1920". In: Leslie Bethell (ed.), A cultural history of Latin America. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 1998, pp. 133–225.
  • Porras Barrenechea, Raúl. El nombre del Perú. Lima: Talleres Gráficos P.L. Villanueva, 1968.
  • Romero, Raúl. "La música tradicional y popular". In: Patronato Popular y Porvenir, La música en el Perú. Lima: Industrial Gráfica, 1985, pp. 215–283.
  • Romero, Raúl. "Andean Peru". In: John Schechter (ed.), Music in Latin American culture: regional tradition. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999, pp. 383–423.
  • Thorp, Rosemary and Geoffrey Bertram. Peru 1890–1977: growth and policy in an open economy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978, ISBN 0231034334

Further reading

External links

  • Country Profile from BBC News
  • Peru from the Encyclopædia Britannica
  • "Peru". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 
  • Peru at UCB Libraries GovPubs
  • World Bank Summary Trade Statistics Peru
  • Peru at DMOZ
  • PeruLinks web directory
  • Wikimedia Atlas of Peru
  • Peru travel guide from Wikivoyage
  • (Spanish) Web portal of the Peruvian Government
  • Geographic data related to Peru at OpenStreetMap

A photograph or photo is an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic medium such as a CCD or a CMOS chip. Most photographs are created using a camera, which uses a lens to focus the scene's visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the human eye would see. The process and practice of creating photographs is called photography. The word "photograph" was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel and is based on the Greek φῶς (phos), meaning "light", and γραφή (graphê), meaning "drawing, writing", together meaning "drawing with light".


Photography is the science, art, application and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film.

Typically, a lens is used to focus the light reflected or emitted from objects into a real image on the light-sensitive surface inside a camera during a timed exposure. With an electronic image sensor, this produces an electrical charge at each pixel, which is electronically processed and stored in a digital image file for subsequent display or processing. The result with photographic emulsion is an invisible latent image, which is later chemically "developed" into a visible image, either negative or positive depending on the purpose of the photographic material and the method of processing. A negative image on film is traditionally used to photographically create a positive image on a paper base, known as a print, either by using an enlarger or by contact printing.

Photography is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing (e.g., photolithography), and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication.


Poverty is general scarcity or the state of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money. It is a multifaceted concept, which includes social, economic, and political elements. Absolute poverty or destitution refers to the lack of means necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Absolute poverty is meant to be about the same independent of location. Relative poverty occurs when people in a country do not enjoy a certain minimum level of living standards as compared to the rest of the population and so would vary from country to country, sometimes within the same country.

After the industrial revolution, mass production in factories made producing goods increasingly less expensive and more accessible. Of more importance is the modernization of agriculture, such as fertilizers, to provide enough yield to feed the population. Providing basic needs can be restricted by constraints on government's ability to deliver services, such as corruption, tax avoidance, debt and loan conditionalities and by the brain drain of health care and educational professionals. Strategies of increasing income to make basic needs more affordable typically include welfare, economic freedoms and providing financial services.

Poverty reduction is a major goal and issue for many international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Bank.

Global prevalence

The World Bank forecasts that 702.1 million people , down from 1.75 billion in 1990. Of these, about 347.1 million people lived in Sub-Saharan Africa (35.2% of the population) and 231.3 million lived in South Asia (13.5% of the population). According to the World Bank, between 1990 and 2015, the percentage of the world's population living in extreme poverty fell from 37.1% to 9.6%, falling below 10% for the first time. Nevertheless, given the current economic model, built on GDP, it would take 100 years to bring the world's poorest up to the previous poverty line of $1.25 a day. Extreme poverty is a global challenge; it is observed in all parts of the world, including developed economies. UNICEF estimates half the world's children (or 1.1 billion) live in poverty. It has been argued by some academics that the neoliberal policies promoted by global financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank are actually exacerbating both inequality and poverty.

Another estimate places the true scale of poverty much higher than the World Bank, with an estimated 4.3 billion people (59 percent of the world's population) living with less than $5 a day and unable to meet basic needs adequately.

In 2012 it is estimated that, given a poverty line of $1.25 a day 1.2 billion people lived in poverty.


The word poverty comes from old French poverté (Modern French: pauvreté), from Latin paupertās from pauper (poor).

The English word "poverty" via Anglo-Norman povert. There are several definitions of poverty depending on the context of the situation it is placed in, and the views of the person giving the definition.

Measuring poverty


Income Poverty: a family's income fails to meet a federally established threshold that differs across countries.

United Nations: Fundamentally, poverty is the inability of having choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

World Bank: Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one’s life.

Poverty is usually measured as either absolute or relative (the latter being actually an index of income inequality).

In the United Kingdom, the second Cameron ministry came under attack for their redefinition of poverty; poverty is no longer classified by a family's income, but as to whether a family is in work or not. Considering that two-thirds of people who found work were accepting wages that are below the living wage (according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) this has been criticised by anti-poverty campaigners as an unrealistic view of poverty in the United Kingdom.

Absolute poverty

Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. First introduced in 1990, the dollar a day poverty line measured absolute poverty by the standards of the world’s poorest countries. The World Bank defined the new international poverty line as $1.25 a day in 2008 for 2005 (equivalent to $1.00 a day in 1996 US prices). In October 2015, they reset it to $1.90 a day.

Absolute poverty, extreme poverty, or abject poverty is "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services." The term 'absolute poverty', when used in this fashion, is usually synonymous with 'extreme poverty': Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank, described absolute or extreme poverty as, "a condition so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, squalid surroundings, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency." Australia is one of the world's wealthier nations. In his article published in Australian Policy Online, Robert Tanton notes that, "While this amount is appropriate for third world countries, in Australia, the amount required to meet these basic needs will naturally be much higher because prices of these basic necessities are higher."

However, as the amount of wealth required for survival is not the same in all places and time periods, particularly in highly developed countries where few people would fall below the World Bank Group's poverty lines, countries often develop their own national poverty lines.

An absolute poverty line was calculated in Australia for the Henderson poverty inquiry in 1973. It was $62.70 a week, which was the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children at the time. This poverty line has been updated regularly by the Melbourne Institute according to increases in average incomes; for a single employed person it was $391.85 per week (including housing costs) in March 2009. In Australia the OECD poverty would equate to a "disposable income of less than $358 per week for a single adult (higher for larger households to take account of their greater costs). in 2015 Australia implemented the Individual Deprivation Measure which address gender disparities in poverty.

For a few years starting 1990, the World Bank anchored absolute poverty line as $1 per day. This was revised in 1993, and through 2005, absolute poverty was $1.08 a day for all countries on a purchasing power parity basis, after adjusting for inflation to the 1993 U.S. dollar. In 2005, after extensive studies of cost of living across the world, The World Bank raised the measure for global poverty line to reflect the observed higher cost of living. In 2015, the World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.90 (PPP) per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 or $5 a day (but note that a person or family with access to subsistence resources, e.g., subsistence farmers, may have a low cash income without a correspondingly low standard of living – they are not living "on" their cash income but using it as a top up). It estimated that "in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day." A 'dollar a day', in nations that do not use the U.S. dollar as currency, does not translate to living a day on the equivalent amount of local currency as determined by the exchange rate. Rather, it is determined by the purchasing power parity rate, which would look at how much local currency is needed to buy the same things that a dollar could buy in the United States. Usually, this would translate to less local currency than the exchange rate in poorer countries as the United States is a relatively more expensive country.

The poverty line threshold of $1.90 per day, as set by the World Bank, is controversial. Each nation has its own threshold for absolute poverty line; in the United States, for example, the absolute poverty line was US$15.15 per day in 2010 (US$22,000 per year for a family of four), while in India it was US$1.0 per day and in China the absolute poverty line was US$0.55 per day, each on PPP basis in 2010. These different poverty lines make data comparison between each nation's official reports qualitatively difficult. Some scholars argue that the World Bank method sets the bar too high, others argue it is low. Still others suggest that poverty line misleads as it measures everyone below the poverty line the same, when in reality someone living on $1.20 per day is in a different state of poverty than someone living on $0.20 per day. In other words, the depth and intensity of poverty varies across the world and in any regional populations, and $1.25 per day poverty line and head counts are inadequate measures.

The share of the world's population living in absolute poverty fell from 43% in 1981 to 14% in 2011. The absolute number of people in poverty fell from 1.95 billion in 1981 to 1.01 billion in 2011. The economist Max Roser estimates that the number of people in poverty is therefore roughly the same as 200 years ago. This is the case since the world population was just little more than 1 billion in 1820 and the majority (84% to 94%) of the world population was living poverty. The proportion of the developing world's population living in extreme economic poverty fell from 28 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Most of this improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. In East Asia the World Bank reported that "The poverty headcount rate at the $2-a-day level is estimated to have fallen to about 27 percent [in 2007], down from 29.5 percent in 2006 and 69 percent in 1990." In Sub-Saharan Africa extreme poverty went up from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001, which combined with growing population increased the number of people living in extreme poverty from 231 million to 318 million.

In the early 1990s some of the transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in income. The collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in large declines in GDP per capita, of about 30 to 35% between 1990 and the trough year of 1998 (when it was at its minimum). As a result, poverty rates also increased although in subsequent years as per capita incomes recovered the poverty rate dropped from 31.4% of the population to 19.6%.

World Bank data shows that the percentage of the population living in households with consumption or income per person below the poverty line has decreased in each region of the world since 1990:

According to Chen and Ravallion, about 1.76 billion people in developing world lived above $1.25 per day and 1.9 billion people lived below $1.25 per day in 1981. The world's population increased over the next 25 years. In 2005, about 4.09 billion people in developing world lived above $1.25 per day and 1.4 billion people lived below $1.25 per day (both 1981 and 2005 data are on inflation adjusted basis). Some scholars caution that these trends are subject to various assumptions and not certain. Additionally, they note that the poverty reduction is not uniform across the world; economically prospering countries such as China, India and Brazil have made more progress in absolute poverty reduction than countries in other regions of the world.

The absolute poverty measure trends noted above are supported by human development indicators, which have also been improving. Life expectancy has greatly increased in the developing world since World War II and is starting to close the gap to the developed world. Child mortality has decreased in every developing region of the world. The proportion of the world's population living in countries where per-capita food supplies are less than 2,200 calories (9,200 kilojoules) per day decreased from 56% in the mid-1960s to below 10% by the 1990s. Similar trends can be observed for literacy, access to clean water and electricity and basic consumer items.

Relative poverty

Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Usually, relative poverty is measured as the percentage of the population with income less than some fixed proportion of median income. There are several other different income inequality metrics, for example, the Gini coefficient or the Theil Index.

Relative poverty is the "most useful measure for ascertaining poverty rates in wealthy developed nations." Relative poverty measure is used by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Canadian poverty researchers. In the European Union, the "relative poverty measure is the most prominent and most–quoted of the EU social inclusion indicators."

"Relative poverty reflects better the cost of social inclusion and equality of opportunity in a specific time and space."

"Once economic development has progressed beyond a certain minimum level, the rub of the poverty problem – from the point of view of both the poor individual and of the societies in which they live – is not so much the effects of poverty in any absolute form but the effects of the contrast, daily perceived, between the lives of the poor and the lives of those around them. For practical purposes, the problem of poverty in the industrialized nations today is a problem of relative poverty (page 9)."

In 1776 Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations argued that poverty is the inability to afford, "not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without."

In 1958 J. K. Galbraith argued that "People are poverty stricken when their income, even if adequate for survival, falls markedly behind that of their community."

In 1964 in a joint committee economic President's report in the United States, Republicans endorsed the concept of relative poverty. "No objective definition of poverty exists... The definition varies from place to place and time to time. In America as our standard of living rises, so does our idea of what is substandard."

In 1965 Rose Friedman argued for the use of relative poverty claiming that the definition of poverty changes with general living standards. Those labeled as poor in 1995 would have had "a higher standard of living than many labeled not poor" in 1965.

In 1979, British sociologist, Peter Townsend published his famous definition, "individuals [...] can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or are at least widely encouraged or approved, in the societies to which they belong (page 31).". This definition and measurement of poverty was profoundly linked to the idea that poverty and societal participation are deeply associated.

Peter Townsend transformed the conception of poverty, viewing it not simply as lack of income but as the configuration of the economic conditions that prevent people from being full members of the society (Townsend, 1979; Ferragina et al. 2016 ). Poverty reduces the ability of people to participate in society, effectively denying them full citizenship (as suggested by T.H. Marshall). Given that there are no universal principles by which to determine the minimum threshold of participation equating to full membership of society, Townsend argued that the appropriate measure would necessarily be relative to any particular cultural context. He suggested that in each society there should be an empirically determinable ‘breakpoint’ within the income distribution below which participation of individuals collapses, providing a scientific basis for fixing a poverty line and determining the extent of poverty (Ferragina et al. 2016 ).

Brian Nolan and Christopher T. Whelan of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Ireland explained that "[P]overty has to be seen in terms of the standard of living of the society in question."

Relative poverty measures are used as official poverty rates by the European Union, UNICEF, and the OEDC. The main poverty line used in the OECD and the European Union is based on "economic distance", a level of income set at 60% of the median household income.

Other aspects

Economic aspects of poverty focus on material needs, typically including the necessities of daily living, such as food, clothing, shelter, or safe drinking water. Poverty in this sense may be understood as a condition in which a person or community is lacking in the basic needs for a minimum standard of well-being and life, particularly as a result of a persistent lack of income. The increase in poverty runs parallel sides with unemployment, hunger, and higher crime rate.

Analysis of social aspects of poverty links conditions of scarcity to aspects of the distribution of resources and power in a society and recognizes that poverty may be a function of the diminished "capability" of people to live the kinds of lives they value. The social aspects of poverty may include lack of access to information, education, health care, social capital or political power.

Poverty levels are snapshot pictures in time that omits the transitional dynamics between levels. Mobility statistics supply additional information about the fraction who leave the poverty level. For example, one study finds that in a sixteen-year period (1975 to 1991 in the U.S.) only 5% of those in the lower fifth of the income level were still at that level, while 95% transitioned to a higher income category. Poverty levels can remain the same while those who rise out of poverty are replaced by others. The transient poor and chronic poor differ in each society. In a nine-year period ending in 2005 for the U.S., 50% of the poorest quintile transitioned to a higher quintile.

Poverty may also be understood as an aspect of unequal social status and inequitable social relationships, experienced as social exclusion, dependency, and diminished capacity to participate, or to develop meaningful connections with other people in society. Such social exclusion can be minimized through strengthened connections with the mainstream, such as through the provision of relational care to those who are experiencing poverty.

The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor," based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people identify as part of poverty. These include:

  • Abuse by those in power
  • Dis-empowering institutions
  • Excluded locations
  • Gender relationships
  • Lack of security
  • Limited capabilities
  • Physical limitations
  • Precarious livelihoods
  • Problems in social relationships
  • Weak community organizations
  • Discrimination

David Moore, in his book The World Bank, argues that some analysis of poverty reflect pejorative, sometimes racial, stereotypes of impoverished people as powerless victims and passive recipients of aid programs.

Ultra-poverty, a term apparently coined by Michael Lipton, connotes being amongst poorest of the poor in low-income countries. Lipton defined ultra-poverty as receiving less than 80 percent of minimum caloric intake whilst spending more than 80% of income on food. Alternatively a 2007 report issued by International Food Policy Research Institute defined ultra-poverty as living on less than 54 cents per day.

Asset poverty is an economic and social condition that is more persistent and prevalent than income poverty. It can be defined as a household’s inability to access wealth resources that are sufficient enough to provide for basic needs for a period of three months. Basic needs refer to the minimum standards for consumption and acceptable needs.Wealth resources consist of home ownership, other real estate (second home, rented properties, etc.), net value of farm and business assets, stocks, checking and savings accounts, and other savings (money in savings bonds, life insurance policy cash values, etc.).Wealth is measured in three forms: net worth, net worth minus home equity, and liquid assets. Net worth consists of all the aspects mentioned above. Net worth minus home equity is the same except it does not include home ownership in asset calculations. Liquid assets are resources that are readily available such as cash, checking and savings accounts, stocks, and other sources of savings. There are two types of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets most closely resemble liquid assets in that they include stocks, bonds, property, natural resources, and hard assets not in the form of real estate. Intangible assets are simply the access to credit, social capital, cultural capital, political capital, and human capital.


The effects of poverty may also be causes as listed above, thus creating a "poverty cycle" operating across multiple levels, individual, local, national and global.


One third of deaths – some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day – are due to poverty-related causes. People of color, women and children, are over represented among the global poor and these effects of severe poverty. Those living in poverty suffer disproportionately from hunger or even starvation and disease. Those living in poverty suffer lower life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, hunger and malnutrition are the single gravest threats to the world's public health and malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases.

Almost 90% of maternal deaths during childbirth occur in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, compared to less than 1% in the developed world. Those who live in poverty have also been shown to have a far greater likelihood of having or incurring a disability within their lifetime. Infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis can perpetuate poverty by diverting health and economic resources from investment and productivity; malaria decreases GDP growth by up to 1.3% in some developing nations and AIDS decreases African growth by 0.3–1.5% annually.

A pair of studies of the influence of poverty on the ability to reason about complicated issues requiring an immediate solution found that poverty directly impedes cognitive function. Financial worries appear to put a severe burden on one's mental resources so that they are no longer fully available for solving complicated problems. The reduced capability for problem solving can lead to suboptimal decisions and further perpetuate poverty.

Infectious diseases continue to blight the lives of the poor across the world. An estimated 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with 3 million deaths in 2004. Every year there are 350–500 million cases of malaria, with 1 million fatalities: Africa accounts for 90 percent of malarial deaths and African children account for over 80 percent of malaria victims worldwide.


Rises in the costs of living make poor people less able to afford items. Poor people spend a greater portion of their budgets on food than wealthy people. As a result, poor households and those near the poverty threshold can be particularly vulnerable to increases in food prices. For example, in late 2007 increases in the price of grains led to food riots in some countries. The World Bank warned that 100 million people were at risk of sinking deeper into poverty. Threats to the supply of food may also be caused by drought and the water crisis. Intensive farming often leads to a vicious cycle of exhaustion of soil fertility and decline of agricultural yields. Approximately 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded. In Africa, if current trends of soil degradation continue, the continent might be able to feed just 25% of its population by 2025, according to United Nations University's Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa. Every year nearly 11 million children living in poverty die before their fifth birthday. 1.02 billion people go to bed hungry every night.

According to the Global Hunger Index, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest child malnutrition rate of the world's regions over the 2001–2006 period.

Efforts to end hunger and undernutrition

As part of the Sustainable Development Goals the global community has made the elimination of hunger and undernutrition a priority for the coming years. While the Goal 2 of the SDGs aims to reach this goal by 2030 a number of initiatives aim to achieve the goal 5 years earlier, by 2025:

  • The partnership Compact2025, led by IFPRI with the involvement of UN organisations, NGOs and private foundations develops and disseminates evidence-based advice to politicians and other decision-makers aimed at ending hunger and undernutrition in the coming 10 years, by 2025. It bases its claim that hunger can be ended by 2025 on a report by Shenggen Fan and Paul Polman that analyzed the experiences from China, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand.
  • The European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched a partnership to combat Undernutrition in June 2015. The program will initiatilly be implemented in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos and Niger and will help these countries to improve information and analysis about nutrition so they can develop effective national nutrition policies.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has created a partnership that will act through the African Union's CAADP framework aiming to end hunger in Africa by 2025. It includes different interventions including support for improved food production, a strengthening of social protection and integration of the right to food into national legislation.


Research has found that there is a high risk of educational underachievement for children who are from low-income housing circumstances. This is often a process that begins in primary school for some less fortunate children. Instruction in the US educational system, as well as in most other countries, tends to be geared towards those students who come from more advantaged backgrounds. As a result, children in poverty are at a higher risk than advantaged children for retention in their grade, special deleterious placements during the school's hours and even not completing their high school education. Advantage breeds advantage. There are indeed many explanations for why students tend to drop out of school. One is the conditions of which they attend school. Schools in poverty-stricken areas have conditions that hinder children from learning in a safe environment. Researchers have developed a name for areas like this: an urban war zone is a poor, crime-laden district in which deteriorated, violent, even war-like conditions and underfunded, largely ineffective schools promote inferior academic performance, including irregular attendance and disruptive or non-compliant classroom behavior. Because of poverty, "Students from low-income families are 2.4 times more likely to drop out than middle-income kids, and over 10 times more likely than high-income peers to drop out"

For children with low resources, the risk factors are similar to others such as juvenile delinquency rates, higher levels of teenage pregnancy, and the economic dependency upon their low-income parent or parents. Families and society who submit low levels of investment in the education and development of less fortunate children end up with less favorable results for the children who see a life of parental employment reduction and low wages. Higher rates of early childbearing with all the connected risks to family, health and well-being are major important issues to address since education from preschool to high school are both identifiably meaningful in a life.

Poverty often drastically affects children's success in school. A child's "home activities, preferences, mannerisms" must align with the world and in the cases that they do not do these, students are at a disadvantage in the school and, most importantly, the classroom. Therefore, it is safe to state that children who live at or below the poverty level will have far less success educationally than children who live above the poverty line. Poor children have a great deal less healthcare and this ultimately results in many absences from the academic year. Additionally, poor children are much more likely to suffer from hunger, fatigue, irritability, headaches, ear infections, flu, and colds. These illnesses could potentially restrict a child or student's focus and concentration.

For a child to grow up emotionally healthy, the children under three need "A strong, reliable primary caregiver who provides consistent and unconditional love, guidance, and support. Safe, predictable, stable environments. Ten to 20 hours each week of harmonious, reciprocal interactions. This process, known as attunement, is most crucial during the first 6–24 months of infants' lives and helps them develop a wider range of healthy emotions, including gratitude, forgiveness, and empathy. Enrichment through personalized, increasingly complex activities".

Harmful spending habits mean that the poor typically spend about 2 percent of their income educating their children but larger percentages of alcohol and tobacco (For example, 6 percent in Indonesia and 8 percent in Mexico).


Poverty has been also considered a real social phenomenon reflecting more the consequences of a lack of income than the lack of income per se (Ferragina et al. 2016 ). According to Townsend: humans are social animals entangled in a web of relationships, which exert complex and changing pressures, as much in their consumption of goods and services as in any other aspect of their behaviour (Townsend 1979 ). This idea has received theoretical support from scholars and extensive testimony from people experiencing poverty across the globe (Walker 2014 ). Participation and consumption have become ever more crucial mechanisms through which people establish and communicate their identity and position in society, increasing the premium attached to resources needed to participate (Giddens 1991 ). In addition, the concept of social exclusion has been added to the lexicon of poverty related terms, describing the process by which people, especially those on low incomes, can become socially and politically detached from mainstream society and its associated resources and opportunities (Cantillon 1997 ). Equally western society have become more complex with ethnic diversity, multi-culturalism and life-style choices raising the possibility that a single concept of poverty as conceived in the past might no longer apply (Ferragina et al. 2016 ).


Poverty increases the risk of homelessness. Slum-dwellers, who make up a third of the world's urban population, live in a poverty no better, if not worse, than rural people, who are the traditional focus of the poverty in the developing world, according to a report by the United Nations.

There are over 100 million street children worldwide. Most of the children living in institutions around the world have a surviving parent or close relative, and they most commonly entered orphanages because of poverty. It is speculated that, flush with money, orphanages are increasing and push for children to join even though demographic data show that even the poorest extended families usually take in children whose parents have died. Experts and child advocates maintain that orphanages are expensive and often harm children's development by separating them from their families and that it would be more effective and cheaper to aid close relatives who want to take in the orphans.


Water and sanitation

As of 2012, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation services and 15% practice open defecation. Water utility subsidies tend to subsidize water consumption by those connected to the supply grid, which is typically skewed towards the richer and urban segment of the population and those outside informal housing. As a result of heavy consumption subsidies, the price of water decreases to the extent that only 30%, on average, of the supplying costs in developing countries is covered. This results in a lack of incentive to maintain delivery systems, leading to losses from leaks annually that are enough for 200 million people. This also leads to a lack of incentive to invest in expanding the network, resulting in much of the poor population being unconnected to the network. Instead, the poor buy water from water vendors for, on average, about five to 16 times the metered price. However, subsidies for laying new connections to the network rather than for consumption have shown more promise for the poor.


Similarly, the poorest fifth receive 0.1% of the world’s lighting but pay a fifth of total spending on light, accounting for 25 to 30 percent of their income. Indoor air pollution from burning fuels kills 2 million, with almost half the deaths from pneumonia in children under 5. Fuel from Bamboo burns more cleanly and also matures much faster than wood, thus also reducing deforestation. Additionally, using solar panels is promoted as being cheaper over the products' lifetime even if upfront costs are higher. Thus, payment schemes such as lend-to-own programs are promoted and up to 14% of Kenyan households use solar as their primary energy source.


According to experts, many women become victims of trafficking, the most common form of which is prostitution, as a means of survival and economic desperation. Deterioration of living conditions can often compel children to abandon school to contribute to the family income, putting them at risk of being exploited. For example, in Zimbabwe, a number of girls are turning to sex in return for food to survive because of the increasing poverty. According to studies, as poverty decreases there will be fewer and fewer instances of violence.

In one survey, 67% of children from disadvantaged inner cities said they had witnessed a serious assault, and 33% reported witnessing a homicide. 51% of fifth graders from New Orleans (median income for a household: $27,133) have been found to be victims of violence, compared to 32% in Washington, DC (mean income for a household: $40,127).


Max Weber and some schools of modernization theory suggest that cultural values could affect economic success. However, researchers have gathered evidence that suggest that values are not as deeply ingrained and that changing economic opportunities explain most of the movement into and out of poverty, as opposed to shifts in values. Studies have shown that poverty changes the personalities of children who live in it. The Great Smoky Mountains Study was a ten-year study that was unexpectedly able to demonstrate this. During the study, about one-quarter of the families saw a dramatic and unexpected increase in income. The study showed that among these children, instances of behavioral and emotional disorders decreased, and conscientiousness and agreeableness increased.


Cultural factors, such as discrimination of various kinds, can negatively affect productivity such as age discrimination, stereotyping, discrimination against people with physical disability, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, and caste discrimination. Women are the group suffering from the highest rate of poverty after children; 14.5% of women and 22% of children are poor in the United States. In addition, the fact that women are more likely to be caregivers, regardless of income level, to either the generations before or after them, exacerbates the burdens of their poverty.

Poverty reduction

Various poverty reduction strategies are broadly categorized here based on whether they make more of the basic human needs available or whether they increase the disposable income needed to purchase those needs. Some strategies such as building roads can both bring access to various basic needs, such as fertilizer or healthcare from urban areas, as well as increase incomes, by bringing better access to urban markets.

Increasing the supply of basic needs

Food and other goods

Agricultural technologies such as nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, new seed varieties and new irrigation methods have dramatically reduced food shortages in modern times by boosting yields past previous constraints.

Before the Industrial Revolution, poverty had been mostly accepted as inevitable as economies produced little, making wealth scarce. Geoffrey Parker wrote that "In Antwerp and Lyon, two of the largest cities in western Europe, by 1600 three-quarters of the total population were too poor to pay taxes, and therefore likely to need relief in times of crisis." The initial industrial revolution led to high economic growth and eliminated mass absolute poverty in what is now considered the developed world. Mass production of goods in places such as rapidly industrializing China has made what were once considered luxuries, such as vehicles and computers, inexpensive and thus accessible to many who were otherwise too poor to afford them.

Even with new products, such as better seeds, or greater volumes of them, such as industrial production, the poor still require access to these products. Improving road and transportation infrastructure helps solve this major bottleneck. In Africa, it costs more to move fertilizer from an African seaport 60 miles inland than to ship it from the United States to Africa because of sparse, low-quality roads, leading to fertilizer costs two to six times the world average. Microfranchising models such as door to door distributors who earn commission-based income or Coca-Cola's successful distribution system are used to disseminate basic needs to remote areas for below market prices.

Health care and education

Nations do not necessarily need wealth to gain health. For example, Sri Lanka had a maternal mortality rate of 2% in the 1930s, higher than any nation today. It reduced it to 0.5–0.6% in the 1950s and to 0.6% today while spending less each year on maternal health because it learned what worked and what did not. Knowledge on the cost effectiveness of healthcare interventions can be elusive and educational measures have been made to disseminate what works, such as the Copenhagen Consensus. Cheap water filters and promoting hand washing are some of the most cost effective health interventions and can cut deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia.

Strategies to provide education cost effectively include deworming children, which costs about 50 cents per child per year and reduces non-attendance from anemia, illness and malnutrition, while being only a twenty-fifth as expensive as increasing school attendance by constructing schools. Schoolgirl absenteeism could be cut in half by simply providing free sanitary towels. Fortification with micronutrients was ranked the most cost effective aid strategy by the Copenhagen Consensus. For example, iodised salt costs 2 to 3 cents per person a year while even moderate iodine deficiency in pregnancy shaves off 10 to 15 IQ points. Paying for school meals is argued to be an efficient strategy in increasing school enrollment, reducing absenteeism and increasing student attention.

Desirable actions such as enrolling children in school or receiving vaccinations can be encouraged by a form of aid known as conditional cash transfers. In Mexico, for example, dropout rates of 16- to 19-year-olds in rural area dropped by 20% and children gained half an inch in height. Initial fears that the program would encourage families to stay at home rather than work to collect benefits have proven to be unfounded. Instead, there is less excuse for neglectful behavior as, for example, children stopped begging on the streets instead of going to school because it could result in suspension from the program.

Removing constraints on government services

Government revenue can be diverted away from basic services by corruption. Funds from aid and natural resources are often sent by government individuals for money laundering to overseas banks which insist on bank secrecy, instead of spending on the poor. A Global Witness report asked for more action from Western banks as they have proved capable of stanching the flow of funds linked to terrorism.

Illicit capital flight from the developing world is estimated at ten times the size of aid it receives and twice the debt service it pays, with one estimate that most of Africa would be developed if the taxes owed were paid. About 60 per cent of illicit capital flight from Africa is from transfer mispricing, where a subsidiary in a developing nation sells to another subsidiary or shell company in a tax haven at an artificially low price to pay less tax. An African Union report estimates that about 30% of sub-Saharan Africa's GDP has been moved to tax havens. Solutions include corporate "country-by-country reporting" where corporations disclose activities in each country and thereby prohibit the use of tax havens where no effective economic activity occurs.

Developing countries' debt service to banks and governments from richer countries can constrain government spending on the poor. For example, Zambia spent 40% of its total budget to repay foreign debt, and only 7% for basic state services in 1997. One of the proposed ways to help poor countries has been debt relief. Zambia began offering services, such as free health care even while overwhelming the health care infrastructure, because of savings that resulted from a 2005 round of debt relief.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as primary holders of developing countries' debt, attach structural adjustment conditionalities in return for loans which are generally geared toward loan repayment with austerity measures such as the elimination of state subsidies and the privatization of state services. For example, the World Bank presses poor nations to eliminate subsidies for fertilizer even while many farmers cannot afford them at market prices. In Malawi, almost five million of its 13 million people used to need emergency food aid but after the government changed policy and subsidies for fertilizer and seed were introduced, farmers produced record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007 as Malawi became a major food exporter. A major proportion of aid from donor nations is tied, mandating that a receiving nation spend on products and expertise originating only from the donor country. US law requires food aid be spent on buying food at home, instead of where the hungry live, and, as a result, half of what is spent is used on transport.

Distressed securities funds, also known as vulture funds, buy up the debt of poor nations cheaply and then sue countries for the full value of the debt plus interest which can be ten or 100 times what they paid. They may pursue any companies which do business with their target country to force them to pay to the fund instead. Considerable resources are diverted on costly court cases. For example, a court in Jersey ordered Congo to pay an American speculator $100 million in 2010. Now, the UK, Isle of Man and Jersey have banned such payments.

Reversing brain drain

The loss of basic needs providers emigrating from impoverished countries has a damaging effect. As of 2004, there were more Ethiopia-trained doctors living in Chicago than in Ethiopia. Proposals to mitigate the problem include compulsory government service for graduates of public medical and nursing schools and promoting medical tourism so that health care personal have more incentive to practice in their home countries.

Controlling overpopulation

Some argue that overpopulation and lack of access to birth control leads to population increase to exceed food production and other resources. Better education for both men and women, and more control of their lives, reduces population growth due to family planning. According to UNFPA-United Nations Population Fund, by giving better education to men and women, they can earn money for their lives and can help them to strengthen economic security.

Increasing personal income

The following are strategies used or proposed to increase personal incomes among the poor. Raising farm incomes is described as the core of the antipoverty effort as three-quarters of the poor today are farmers. Estimates show that growth in the agricultural productivity of small farmers is, on average, at least twice as effective in benefiting the poorest half of a country’s population as growth generated in nonagricultural sectors.

Income grants

A guaranteed minimum income ensures that every citizen will be able to purchase a desired level of basic needs. A basic income (or negative income tax) is a system of social security, that periodically provides each citizen, rich or poor, with a sum of money that is sufficient to live on. Studies of large cash-transfer programs in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi show that the programs can be effective in increasing consumption, schooling, and nutrition, whether they are tied to such conditions or not. Proponents argue that a basic income is more economically efficient than a minimum wage and unemployment benefits, as the minimum wage effectively imposes a high marginal tax on employers, causing losses in efficiency. In 1968, Paul Samuelson, John Kenneth Galbraith and another 1,200 economists signed a document calling for the US Congress to introduce a system of income guarantees. Winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics, with often diverse political convictions, who support a basic income include Herbert A. Simon, Friedrich Hayek, Robert Solow, Milton Friedman, Jan Tinbergen, James Tobin and James Meade.

Income grants are argued to be vastly more efficient in extending basic needs to the poor than subsidizing supplies whose effectiveness in poverty alleviation is diluted by the non-poor who enjoy the same subsidized prices. With cars and other appliances, the wealthiest 20% of Egypt uses about 93% of the country's fuel subsidies. In some countries, fuel subsidies are a larger part of the budget than health and education. A 2008 study concluded that the money spent on in-kind transfers in India in a year could lift all India’s poor out of poverty for that year if transferred directly. The primary obstacle argued against direct cash transfers is the impractically for poor countries of such large and direct transfers. In practice, payments determined by complex iris scanning are used by war-torn Congo and Afghanistan, while India is phasing out its fuel subsidies in favor of direct transfers. Additionally, in aid models, the famine relief model increasingly used by aid groups calls for giving cash or cash vouchers to the hungry to pay local farmers instead of buying food from donor countries, often required by law, as it wastes money on transport costs.

Economic freedoms

Corruption often leads to many civil services being treated by governments as employment agencies to loyal supporters and so it could mean going through 20 procedures, paying $2,696 in fees and waiting 82 business days to start a business, in Bolivia, while, in Canada, it takes two days, two registration procedures, and $280 to do the same. Such costly barriers favor big firms at the expense of small enterprises, where most jobs are created. Often, businesses have to bribe government officials even for routine activities, which is, in effect, a tax on business. Noted reductions in poverty in recent decades has occurred in China and India mostly as a result of the abandonment of collective farming in China and the ending of the central planning model known as the License Raj in India.

The World Bank concludes that governments and feudal elites extending to the poor the right to the land that they live and use are 'the key to reducing poverty' citing that land rights greatly increase poor people's wealth, in some cases doubling it. Although approaches varied, the World Bank said the key issues were security of tenure and ensuring land transactions costs were low.

Greater access to markets brings more income to the poor. Road infrastructure has a direct impact on poverty. Additionally, migration from poorer countries resulted in $328 billion sent from richer to poorer countries in 2010, more than double the $120 billion in official aid flows from OECD members. In 2011, India got $52 billion from its diaspora, more than it took in foreign direct investment.

Financial services

Microloans, made famous by the Grameen Bank, is where small amounts of money are loaned to farmers or villages, mostly women, who can then obtain physical capital to increase their economic rewards. However, microlending has been criticized for making hyperprofits off the poor even from its founder, Muhammad Yunus, and in India, Arundhati Roy asserts that some 250,000 debt-ridden farmers have been driven to suicide.

Those in poverty place overwhelming importance on having a safe place to save money, much more so than receiving loans. Additionally, a large part of microfinance loans are spent not on investments but on products that would usually be paid by a checking or savings account. Microsavings are designs to make savings products available for the poor, who make small deposits. Mobile banking utilizes the wide availability of mobile phones to address the problem of the heavy regulation and costly maintenance of saving accounts. This usually involves a network of agents of mostly shopkeepers, instead of bank branches, would take deposits in cash and translate these onto a virtual account on customers' phones. Cash transfers can be done between phones and issued back in cash with a small commission, making remittances safer.

Wealth concentration

Poverty can also be reduced as an improved economic policy is developed by the governing authorities to facilitate a more equitable distribution of the nation's wealth. Oxfam has called for an international movement to end extreme wealth concentration as a significant step towards ameliorating global poverty. The group stated that the $240 billion added to the fortunes of the world's richest billionaires in 2012 was enough to end extreme poverty four times over. Oxfam argues that the "concentration of resources in the hands of the top 1% depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder." It has been reported that only 1% of the world population controls 50% of the wealth today, and the other 99% is having access to the remaining 50% only, and the gap has sharply increased in the recent past.

José Antonio Ocampo, professor at Columbia University and former finance minister of Colombia, and Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, former UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, argue that global tax reform is integral to human development and fighting poverty, as corporate tax avoidance has disproportionately impacted those mired in poverty, noting that "the human impact is devastatingly real. When profits are shifted out, the tax revenues from those profits that could be available to fund healthcare, schools, water sanitation and other public goods vanish from the ledger, leaving women and men, boys and girls without pathways to a better future."

Raghuram G. Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business has blamed the ever-widening gulf between the rich and the poor especially in the USA to be one of the main Fault Lines which caused the financial institutions to pump money into subprime mortgages – on political behest, as a palliative and not a remedy, for poverty – causing the financial crisis of 2007 – 2009. In Rajan's view the main cause of increasing gap between the high income and low income earners, was lack of equal access to high class education for the latter.

Business solutions to poverty

Serving the poor market

The concept of business serving the world's poorest four billion or so people has been popular since CK Prahalad introduced the idea through his book Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits in 2004, among many business corporations and business schools. Kash Rangan, John Quelch, and other faculty members at the Global Poverty Project at Harvard Business School "believe that in pursuing its own self-interest in opening and expanding the BoP market, business can make a profit while serving the poorest of consumers and contributing to development." According to Rangan "For business, the bulk of emerging markets worldwide is at the bottom of the pyramid so it makes good business sense—not a sense of do-gooding—to go after it.".

In their 2013 book, "The Business Solution to Poverty," Paul Polak and Mal Warwick directly addressed the criticism leveled against Prahalad’s concept. They noted that big business often failed to create products that actually met the needs and desires of the customers who lived at the bottom-of-the-pyramid. Their answer was that a business that wanted to success in that market had to spend time talking to and understanding those customers. Polak had previously promoted this approach in his previous book, "Out of Poverty," that described the work of International Development Enterprises (iDE), which he had formed in 1982. Polak and Warwick provided practical advice: a product needed to affect at least a billion people (i.e., have universal appeal), it had to be able to be delivered to customers living where there wasn’t a FedEx office or even a road, and it had to be “radically affordable” to attract someone who earned less than $2 a day.

Creating entrepreneurs

Rather than encouraging mutli-national businesses to meet the needs of the poor, some organizations such as iDE, the World Resources Institute, and the United Nations Development Programme began to focus on working directly with helping bottom-of-the-pyramid populations become local, small-scale entrepreneurs. Since so much of this population is engaged in agriculture, these NGOs have addressed market gaps that enable small-scale (i.e., plots less than 2 hectares) farmers to increase their production and find markets for their harvests. This is done by increasing the availability of farming equipment (e.g., pumps, tillers, seeders) and better quality seed and fertilizer, as well as expanding access for training in farming best practices (e.g., crop rotation).

Criticisms of this approach

In the view of Friedman the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits only, thus, it needs to be examined whether business in BoP markets is capable of achieving the dual objective of making a profit while serving the poorest of consumers and contributing to development? Erik Simanis has reported that the model has a fatal flaw. According to Erik "Despite achieving healthy penetration rates of 5% to 10% in four test markets, for instance, Procter & Gamble couldn’t generate a competitive return on its Pur water-purification powder after launching the product on a large scale in 2001...DuPont ran into similar problems with a venture piloted from 2006 to 2008 in Andhra Pradesh, India, by its subsidiary Solae, a global manufacturer of soy protein ... Because the high costs of doing business among the very poor demand a high contribution per transaction, companies must embrace the reality that high margins and price points aren’t just a top-of-the-pyramid phenomenon; they’re also a necessity for ensuring sustainable businesses at the bottom of the pyramid." Marc Gunther states that "The bottom-of-the-pyramid (BOP) market leader, arguably, is Unilever ... Its signature BOP product is Pureit, a countertop water-purification system sold in India, Africa and Latin America. It's saving lives, but it's not making money for shareholders." This leaves the ideal of eradicating poverty through profits or with a good business sense—not a sense of do-gooding rather questionable.

Others have noted that relying on BoP consumers to choose to purchase items that increase their incomes is naive. Poor consumers may spend their income disproportionately on events or goods and services that offer short-term benefits rather than invest in things that could change their lives in the long-term.

Environmental issues

A report published in 2013 by the World Bank, with support from the Climate & Development Knowledge Network, found that climate change was likely to hinder future attempts to reduce poverty. The report presented the likely impacts of present day, 2 °C and 4 °C warming on agricultural production, water resources, coastal ecosystems and cities across Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and South East Asia. The impacts of a temperature rise of 2 °C included: regular food shortages in Sub-Saharan Africa; shifting rain patterns in South Asia leaving some parts under water and others without enough water for power generation, irrigation or drinking; degradation and loss of reefs in South East Asia, resulting in reduced fish stocks; and coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to increasingly violent storms. In 2016, A UN report claimed that by 2030, an additional 122 million more people could be driven to extreme poverty because of climate change.

According to an Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, humans will not be able to survive the population explosion and “unbridled consumption,” and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species. He believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialisation rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson calculated that Earth would lose half its higher life forms by 2100 if the current rate of human disruption continued. Many think that poverty is the cause of environmental degradation, while there are others who claim that rather the poor are the worst sufferers of environmental degradation caused by reckless exploitation of natural resources by the rich. A Delhi-based environment organisation, the Centre for Science and Environment, points out that if the poor world were to develop and consume in the same manner as the West to achieve the same living standards, “we would need two additional planet Earths to produce resources and absorb wastes.”, reports Anup Shah (2003). in his article Poverty and the Environment on Global Issues.

Voluntary poverty

Among some individuals, poverty is considered a necessary or desirable condition, which must be embraced to reach certain spiritual, moral, or intellectual states. Poverty is often understood to be an essential element of renunciation in religions such as Buddhism (only for monks, not for lay persons) and Jainism, whilst in Roman Catholicism it is one of the evangelical counsels. The main aim of giving up things of the materialistic world is to withdraw oneself from sensual pleasures (as they are fake and temporary in some religions). This self-invited poverty (or giving up pleasures) is different from the one caused by economic imbalance.

Benedict XVI distinguished "poverty chosen" (the poverty of spirit proposed by Jesus), and "poverty to be fought" (unjust and imposed poverty). He considered that the moderation implied in the former favors solidarity, and is a necessary condition so as to fight effectively to eradicate the abuse of the latter.

As it was indicated above the reduction of poverty results from religion, but also can result from solidarity.

See also


Further reading

External links

  • Reducing Global Poverty from the Dean Peter Krogh Foreign Affairs Digital Archives
  • Data visualizations of the long-run development of poverty and list of data sources on poverty on 'Our World in Data'.
  • Islamic Development Bank
  • Luxembourg Income Study Contains a wealth of data on income inequality and poverty, and hundreds of its sponsored research papers using this data.
  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Contains reports on economic development as well as relations between rich and poor nations.
  • OPHI Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI)] Research to advance the human development approach to poverty reduction.
  • Transparency International Tracks issues of government and corporate corruption around the world.
  • United Nations Hundreds of free reports related to economic development and standards of living in countries around the world, such as the annual Human Development Report.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development USAID is the primary U.S. government agency with the mission for aid to developing countries.
  • World Bank Contains hundreds of reports which can be downloaded for free, such as the annual World Development Report.
  • World Food Program Associated with the United Nations, the World Food Program compiles hundreds of reports on hunger and food security around the world.
  • Why poverty Documentary films about poverty broadcast on television around the world in November 2012, then will be available online.
  • Annual income of richest 100 people enough to end global poverty four times over. Oxfam International, 19 January 2013.
  • Contains estimates on the number of people living in poverty in selected countries from 1973 to 1985
  • This powerful Reddit thread reveals how the poor get by in America (January 2015), The Washington Post
  • Summary of Human Development Report 2014, by the United Nations Development Programme
  • 2.2 Billion People Are Poor. Truthdig, 23 July 2014.
  • Making Poverty History, by Vijay Prashad for Jacobin. 10 November 2014.

In economics, the cycle of poverty is the "set of factors or events by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention".

The cycle of poverty has been defined as a phenomenon where poor families become impoverished for at least three generations, i.e. for enough time that the family includes no surviving ancestors who possess and can transmit the intellectual, social, and cultural capital necessary to stay out of or change their impoverished condition. In calculations of expected generation length and ancestor lifespan, the lower median age of parents in these families is offset by the shorter lifespans in many of these groups.

Such families have either limited or no resources. There are many disadvantages that collectively work in a circular process making it virtually impossible for individuals to break the cycle. This occurs when poor people do not have the resources necessary to get out of poverty, such as financial capital, education, or connections. In other words, impoverished individuals do not have access to economic and social resources as a result of their poverty. This lack may increase their poverty. This could mean that the poor remain poor throughout their lives. This cycle has also been referred to as a "pattern" of behaviors and situations which cannot easily be changed.

The poverty cycle can be called the "development trap" or "poverty trap" when it is applied to countries.

Ruby K. Payne, author of A Framework for Understanding Poverty, distinguishes between situational poverty, which can generally be traced to a specific incident within the lifetimes of the person or family members in poverty, and generational poverty, which is a cycle that passes from generation to generation, and goes on to argue that generational poverty has its own distinct culture and belief patterns.,_Maynas;;;;;
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