Eliminating Poverty: Lesson From Childhood

Which country has 43.6 million residents in poverty, and where one in five children is also in poverty? Bulgaria? Croatia? Thailand? Jordan? Bahamas? No. Each of these countries has a lower poverty rate. Sadly, the mystery country is the United States of America.

The Census Bureau reported recently that the poverty rate in the United States is at the highest level since 1994. When I heard this statistic, especially that one in five kids lives in poverty, it brought me back to my own childhood. I’m not sure what it took to “qualify” for poverty in the late 1970s, but with a single mom working part-time raising five kids, I’m guessing the poverty club was one group for which we easily qualified.

Even as I got a little older and my mother re-married, we still struggled. My step-father worked in the lumber industry in the 1980s. Because of many factors, the lumber business shrank and he was laid off. Déjà vu all over again. Were we destined to remain in poverty?

Because of the upheaval in the lumber industry and other industries at the time, President Clinton initiated a government subsidized program that would re-train those who were affected with new skills in growth industries. My step-father jumped at the opportunity, but said that many of his co-workers scoffed at having to go back to school, and instead tried to cling to their antiquated skills in a dying industry.

Over the following year, my step-father went to classes, poured over books, and diligently learned a new set of skills while his former colleagues languished. He graduated and became a successful HVAC technician. His new career allowed him to save money for retirement and to help pay for my college.

There were probably dozens of reasons why we were in poverty, but I can identify two reasons why we were able to break free from its grip — education and initiative. The opportunity for education coupled with my step-father’s initiative to do something different pulled us out of poverty.

Even though there are a lot of highly educated folks who are struggling, the benefits of education are as real today as they were 25 years ago. No doubt you’ve heard that the national unemployment rate, which is associated with a higher poverty rate, is nearly 10%, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. The unemployment rate for adults with less than a high school diploma is more than 40% higher. Even more telling, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree is 50% less than the national average. Education and initiative might not be the only solutions to poverty, but they’re a great place to start.

You may not be in poverty, but if you are struggling or just not where you want to be, focus on boosting your existing skills or getting knowledge in a new area. Does this mean you have to go back to school? Maybe, but not necessarily. Entrepreneur and personal development founding father, Jim Rohn, has said, “Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune.” Maybe you just need to pick up the latest books or journals in your industry or attend a few more conferences or webinars.

Whether you go back to school or study on your own, it requires some of your other 8 hours and initiative. It’s been said that the only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions. Break free from what you’ve been doing and do something different. Learn, grow, and develop. Greater knowledge won’t solve all of your problems, but it sure beats the alternative.

(Books image by shutterhacksCC 2.0)

Are you ready to create more money, time, energy, and passion in your life? Learn how to live your best life now with these free resources:

Get the “Achieving Peak Performance” ebook and video now!
(free for a limited time)

You can also join a community of passionate people at Richer Life who want to achieve more in life and at work. With your free membership, you can participate in conversations I have with experts, celebrities, authors, and thought leaders that are laser-focused on practical ways to drive more money, motivation, and meaning into your life. Take the first step toward creating a better life by joining Richer Life for free now!


Elisa F.
Elisa F3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

heather g.
heather g5 years ago

Interesting but limited scope in this article. After all 25,000 die from hunger every day in the world. Millions don't have access to water and sanitation ...... and that's not in the USA. There is enough food that is produced in the world to feed everybody - so governments have a lot to answer for !

Vero Gall
Past Member 5 years ago

I agree with those who have posted that this is not right. Especially when you know that America has some of the best higher education in the world. We are regularly in the top 3 & I've never seen us below the top 10. There is no excuse for America, our beautiful country, to allow this. But there is a reason and that is what we, each and every citizen, do about it.

If we spend just an hour or two of our weekly time becoming informed on political & community issues then we can literally change the situation. Right now we have the perfect opportunity -- the presidential race. Do some research. What does each candidate say about adult education? Which one agrees with what you believe will turn America around from "poor relation" to "powerhouse"?

Also get informed about your senators, house representatives and state politicians. It really doesn't take all that long when it's broken down into 15-30 minutes a few times a week. It can even be done while doing other chores (via podcasts & radio). Take back the power for us, the American people & those politicians who are trying to do something good with their lives. At the same time you'll be taking some of power away from the scum who are using our political system to become rich & powerful just for their own sake and leaving us with starving families and the shame of being a 2nd-rate country.

Milan L.
Milan L5 years ago

Hi, Linda S.! I do hope yours is not just a rhetorical question accompanied by a resigned sigh. There is an answer and has been there for the past 130 years. But you must be prepared to do a little bit more reading than just a brief post on this site. Read "Progress and Poverty" by Henry George. Google will get you there in a few seconds. Even the Condensed Version will do for a start. I came across it in 1953 and , honestly, in the almost sixty years since I have not read or heard anything that would shake my trust in Henry Georges' "Remedy". Read, discuss with friends and please let me know your reaction .

Linda Stark
Linda Stark5 years ago

Why does the richest country in the world have such high rates of poverty? Where is the duty of care to its citizens?

Marianna B M.


Mel M.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers5 years ago

More money should be spent on U.S. citizens, rather than waging war on other countries.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

Thanks for the interesting article.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

It's because they spend a lot of their money on waging wars, and not having a sense of countrywide community, and a me me me attitude. You even think that a health service is somehow bad! There's enough money, but it is a mean country full of programmed mean people. Generosity does not seem to be part of their nature, they like to pretend it is! But its not. Your politicians tell you that war is good for the economy but it's only good for politicians. They're the only ones that profit from war. Our political systems are rubbish, and we keep voting for these people and they keep f@@king us over,  ...but we keep voting for them, encouraging these heartless parasites. ...it fits Einsteins theory of insanity very well.