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Why Is A Study Of Poverty Important?

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It is common today to hear people claim that they want to eradicate poverty. If you are traveling to a Third World country, you might ask yourself, is it essential for me to understand or study poverty?

The study of poverty is one of those issues that anyone who wants to live their life as a global citizen should fully understand. The reason is that the issues of poverty and homelessness are not always as straightforward or as easy as they may seem.

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Why Study Poverty?

Studying poverty is essential to understanding the world around us and creating lasting, meaningful change. Every day millions of people face the challenges associated with living in poverty, but few have the knowledge or resources to fight back.

Poverty affects all kinds of people from every corner of the globe, yet it often goes unnoticed or misunderstood by those who don’t experience it directly. Studying poverty gives invaluable insight into these issues, allowing for more effective policies and interventions to be developed that will truly help alleviate its devastating impacts.

That is why we should all ask ourselves why studying or learning about poverty is vital.

Investopedia has defined poverty as:

“Poverty is a state or condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living. Poverty means that the income level from employment is so low that basic human needs can’t be met. Poverty-stricken people and families might go without proper housing, clean water, healthy food, and medical attention. Each nation may have its own threshold that determines how many of its people are living in poverty.”


The thing about poverty is that it is not exactly a certain number of dollars per day or month. Poverty is about a person’s income being so low that they cannot meet their basic needs.

For example, the poverty level or the income required in Cambodia is very different from the city of San Francisco. San Francisco now has very high rent, so they have had a homelessness problem as people cannot afford a place to live despite having an income.

The study of poverty is not as easy as saying that it is the same for every country or place on the earth. People must understand that poverty is a big issue, especially those who want to travel and see the world or live as global citizens.

Why Understanding Poverty Is Important?

It is vital to understand that poverty is not an exact worldwide number or amount; we often hear that poverty is less than a dollar or three dollars a day. The truth is that poverty is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

For example, San Francisco is known to have at least 8000 homeless people living on the streets. Many people also work two jobs, yet they still cannot afford the basic housing requirements for San Francisco.

Poverty shows that it is not just a number but also a location or where you live. In the case of San Francisco, it is estimated that over 70% of the homeless population is due to not being able to afford housing in the city.

Having a place to live is considered a critical factor for poverty. One of the ways we can view poverty is by the amount of homelessness you see in a city.

Many US Cities have very high poverty rates, much higher than you will find in any third-world country. I live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and I rarely see homeless people. Of course, there are homeless people in the city, but you do not see them as you do in many major cities around the United States.

That is why everyone needs to understand and study poverty to eradicate and solve the worldwide poverty issue.

Understanding poverty’s reasons may also make us more compassionate toward those suffering. If the world has learned anything from the Covid pandemic, the issues of poverty are a lot more complex than they seem.

US Cities With the Highest Homelessness Rates

There is no doubt that many people suffered during the Covid pandemic. Many people have been thrown into a state of homelessness for many reasons. Some of them can no longer afford the rent. Others may be dealing with substance abuse issues.

To live as global citizens, we must understand these issues and have some compassion for those suffering.

10 of the top USA cities dealing with homelessness issues.

Below is the top list of USA cities dealing with homelessness issues. I have also listed the order of the number of homeless people in each location.

No 1 – New York City

The most populated city in the United States is New York City. It is also considered the top for having the largest homeless population in the United States.

It is estimated that in New York City, there are over 78,000 people who are homeless; these people live either on the streets or in a shelter. That is a huge number because almost one in every four homeless people in the United States is located in New York City or Los Angeles.

New York City has about 466 homeless people per every 100,000 residents.

No 2 – Los Angeles

Number two is the city of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is also the second-largest city in the United States by population. It also has the second-largest homeless population.

It is estimated that over 56,000 people in Los Angeles are homeless. But also, in Los Angeles, homeless people are more likely to live without shelter and on the streets.

Part of why more people live on the streets in Los Angeles could be because of California’s temperate climate; also, adequate resources are not available to homeless people in Los Angeles.

In the city of Los Angeles, there are about 406 homeless people per every 100,000 residents.

No 3 – Seattle-Tacoma

The city of Seattle-Tacoma also has an acute homeless problem. It is estimated that the Seattle-Tacoma area has about had over 11,000 homeless people.

Though the numbers are not as high as New York City or Los Angeles, the Seattle-Tacoma area is not as large as any of these cities, so it is still well above the national US average.

Seattle Tacoma area has about 360 homeless people; for every hundred thousand residents.

No 4- San Jose and Santa Clara city and county

Other famous California cities, such as San Jose and Santa Clara, also tend to have a large homeless population. Six of the ten cities with the most significant homelessness problem are in California.

San Jose and Santa Clara are not extremely large but costly. That is why it has a homeless population of over 9,700 people.

There are over 480 homeless people for every 100,000 residents.

No. 5 San Diego and County

It is estimated that San Diego city and county has a homeless population of over 8000 people. As number five for homelessness in the United States, this translates to over 225 homeless people for every 100,000 residents.

No 6 – San Francisco

In recent years, the city of San Francisco has received a lot of bad press about homelessness. It is challenging to get an exact count of how many people are homeless in San Francisco. Some say that it’s over 8,000 people, and others put it as high as over 17,000 people.

No matter what the number is, the truth is that San Francisco has a huge homeless problem.

It is estimated that the rate of homelessness in San Francisco is about 395 people per 100,000 residents.

No 7 – Oakland and Alameda County

The homeless population in Oakland and Alameda County is comprised mainly of families and children. It is estimated that families make up over 43% of homelessness in Oakland and Alameda County,

The area has over 8000 homeless people. To think that many of those are families is still a staggering amount,

No 8 – Phoenix and Maricopa County

Phoenix and Maricopa County have a homeless rate of about 6000 people; this is also a staggering amount when you consider that Phoenix is considered one of the more affordable cities in the United States. In Phoenix, there are about 147 homeless people per 100,000 residents.

Even though this number is low, Phoenix also has a lower cost of housing than many of the other cities or areas on this list do not have. That makes it a massive issue for a city where housing is not as expensive as New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco, yet they are still on the list in the top 10 for homelessness in the United States.

No 9 – District of Columbia

The District of Columbia is one city on this list that has recently seen a significant decrease in its homeless population. The city has actively been trying to address the issue of homelessness.

Today, there are about 6,500 homeless people in the district of Columbia.

No 10 – Boston

Boston is another city, like the District of Columbia, that has actively addressed the problem of homelessness. Today, its homeless population of about 6200 people is down from previous years.

What I find interesting about this list are the cities you do not see, such as Chicago, a major US city. Chicago is not on the list of cities with a huge homelessness problem. It is also interesting to note that many of the cities on this list are located within California, with a notoriously high housing market.

The poverty issue is not always as simple as many of us may think it is. That is why we must continue studying poverty and learn about it to have compassion toward those suffering in poverty.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the study of poverty important?

The study of poverty is crucial because it helps us understand its causes, consequences, and potential solutions, enabling us to address this pressing social issue effectively.

What can we learn from studying poverty?

Studying poverty provides insights into the factors that contribute to its existence, such as inequality, lack of access to education and healthcare, and systemic barriers. It helps us understand the lived experiences of the impoverished and identify effective interventions.

How does studying poverty contribute to policy-making?

By examining poverty, policymakers can gain evidence-based knowledge about its root causes and design targeted policies and programs that address those causes. It helps in creating more comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

Does studying poverty only benefit policymakers?

No, the study of poverty benefits society as a whole. It raises awareness, promotes empathy, and mobilizes individuals and communities to take action and support initiatives aimed at reducing poverty.

How does studying poverty impact economic development?

Poverty hinders economic development by limiting human capital potential, reducing productivity, and creating social unrest. Understanding poverty allows us to design policies that promote inclusive economic growth and reduce inequality.

Can studying poverty contribute to global efforts to alleviate poverty?

Yes, studying poverty on a global scale helps identify common challenges faced by different regions and allows for the exchange of effective strategies. It supports international collaborations and the sharing of resources to combat poverty worldwide.

What role does the study of poverty play in academia?

Poverty is a critical area of research across various academic disciplines such as economics, sociology, political science, and public health. It provides opportunities for scholars to generate knowledge and contribute to evidence-based policymaking.

How does studying poverty affect social justice movements?

A study of poverty sheds light on the structural inequalities that perpetuate poverty, fueling social justice movements and advocating for fairer distribution of resources, equal opportunities, and social inclusion.

The Four Contributory Factors To Poverty Both Locally And Globally

There are four main contributory factors for poverty locally and globally: literacy and education, health and medical care, work or job opportunities, and the overpopulation of a city or country. All of these four areas help to contribute to poverty both locally and globally.

To discover more, read The Four Contributory Factors To Poverty Both Locally And Globally by clicking here.

Living Through The COVID Lockdown in Hanoi, Vietnam

The day Hanoi started its COVID lockdown, I was coming out of the Vietnam French Hospital.   I was in the hospital for a week due to a cycling accident on the Long Bien bridge;  I needed an operation on my hip area.

To learn more, read Living Through The COVID Lockdown in Hanoi, Vietnam, by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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One response to “Why Is A Study Of Poverty Important?”

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