We have no control over where we are born or what society we are raised in. We have no control over who our parents are or what socioeconomic status they occupy while bringing us up. From the time we take our first breath to the time we become an independent human being, we live in a total compliance with the surrounding society. Even in our adult lives much of our socioeconomic status still depends on the economic environment we grew up, the educational opportunities we had in the past, the advantages we took and the guidance we had from our parents and the society surrounding us.
Child poverty is a great concern. There are about 25% of children in the US currently living below the poverty line. It is of a major concern because child development during its early years lays the groundwork for later development and socioeconomic status during the adulthood. Due to the poor living conditions that these children face every day, they are not able to reach their full potential simply because they are not exposed to high quality education, special training programs (such as tutoring), qualified teachers, a secure place of living, access to healthcare, etc (Gupta et al. 2007). On the other hand, we have a larger portion of the children population that has much more opportunities, e.g. thanks to rich parents, these kids can be sent to private schools or maybe participate in exchange student programs which broaden their horizons through the exposure to foreign languages or science tutoring services. Realistically speaking, a child born in the slums of Bangladesh does not have the same opportunities as a child born in Oslo, Norway, due to the vast differences in experiences and prospects these youngsters are exposed to.
As a matter of fact, poverty is not a genetic predisposition, neither is hunger nor prosperity. Behavior is taught according to the social order already prescribed in the society we live in. Most high schools nowadays do not teach lessons on global inequality, the power of big corporations and capitalism. People, especially those living in poor countries, are taught to obey the social order, not to question the chain of command and to conform to their surrounding environment. This narrow thinking leads to people who are narrow in their scope (no matter whether they are rich or poor) and cannot see beyond their own reality.
The growing international inequality plays a big role in the definition and measurement of the global poverty index. Thus, it affects the accessible opportunities that each child can take advantage of during his or her development within the socioeconomic paradigm. According to Worldbank.org, an organization that measures poverty rates around the world, Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia are places in which extreme poverty is so huge that people live on less than $2.50 dollars per day (World Bank 2016). These types of conditions affect children in many ways: emotionally, economically, and intellectually. In fact, poverty and high unemployment prevalent in such countries give rise to gang violence, sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Young people in poor countries and regions have a higher chance of falling in a cycle of violence that may lead to the increased emigration. In the last year, we have observed thousands of Central American children crossing the border illegally from Mexico to the United States in search for a better life, leaving their families behind and hoping that our industrialized nation will offer the asylum.
Location and family income are key determinants of how well off the child will be during its adulthood since a healthy environment with a robust educational system is of great importance for maximizing a child’s prospects from the start. People who are born in a certain class (upper, middle or low) have a certain level of limitation in the way they think in accordance with the experiences that they had throughout their lives (Garcia 2016). Our experiences can either widen or narrow in terms of how we see the world. Education can expand this worldview because it enables us to go beyond those limitations by exploring other societies and cultures. I have travelled a lot – not only to nice places like Paris and Copenhagen but also to places like Jakarta and Haiti. So, I have seen a lot in terms of richness and poverty and it feels overwhelming when I think about the kids.
The key to progress is always to ask why? Why is there hunger? Why are these people powerless? Why do people turn a blind eye? Understanding some of these questions is a start in fighting poverty, increasing the availability of resources to children all over the world and relieving some of the economic inequalities on our planet.
- Ahiza Garcia. 2016. The ‘birth lottery’ and economic mobility. CNN Money. Available at http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/01/news/economy/poverty-inequality-united-states/index.html
- Rita Paul-Sen Gupta, Margaret L de Wit, and David McKeown. 2007. The impact of poverty on the current and future health status of children. Paediatr Child Health. Oct; 12(8): 667–672. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528796/
- World Bank. 2016. World Development Indicators. Available at http://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty