How to Escape the Poverty Trap

How to Escape the Poverty Trap

What is a Poverty Trap?

A poverty trap is a system that poses significant challenges for people seeking to escape from poverty. It emerges when escaping poverty demands a substantial amount of capital within the economic framework. In instances where people lack this required capital, the acquisition becomes challenging, establishing a self-perpetuating cycle of poverty.

A poverty trap is influenced by various factors, including restricted access to credit and capital markets, severe environmental degradation leading to diminished agricultural production, corrupt governance, capital flight, inadequate education systems, disease ecology, insufficient public healthcare, war, and substandard infrastructure.

To escape from the poverty trap, it is argued that people in poverty need substantial assistance to acquire the capital mass necessary for lifting themselves out of poverty. This perspective helps elucidate why certain aid programs, lacking sufficient support, may prove ineffective in elevating individuals from poverty. Without attaining the critical capital mass, those in poverty will likely remain reliant on aid indefinitely and may regress if the aid is discontinued.

Recent research has increasingly emphasised the role of healthcare and other factors in perpetuating the poverty trap within a society. Studies conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reveal that countries with poorer health conditions tend to be caught in a cycle of poverty compared to those with similar educational attainments.

Further investigation by researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville, involving economic and disease data from 83 of the world’s least and most developed countries, demonstrated that individuals residing in areas with limited human, animal, and crop disease are more capable of breaking free from the poverty trap compared to those living in areas with widespread disease.

Types of Poverty Trap

Poverty traps exhibit diverse origins and features, yet they all share a common trait of perpetuating or impeding escape from poverty. Below is a synopsis of different types of poverty traps.


These traps manifest in low income and constrained economic avenues. Individuals facing economic poverty traps encounter obstacles like unemployment, meagre wages, and limited access to financial services. Such circumstances hinder saving, investment, and upward mobility, trapping individuals in a cycle of struggle to meet basic needs.


Geographic poverty traps emerge in regions that are geographically marginalised or isolated. Inadequate infrastructure, such as roads and utilities, makes accessing education, healthcare, and employment challenging. Limited connectivity to markets exacerbates the persistence of poverty in these areas.


Health-related poverty traps are tied to poor health and inadequate healthcare access. Those ensnared in these traps contend with chronic illnesses, insufficient preventative care, and limited treatment options. Medical expenses drain resources, while ill health compromises earning potential.


Educational poverty traps result from inadequate access to quality schooling. High dropout rates, sparse educational facilities, and limited opportunities impede the acquisition of skills necessary for better employment prospects. Without education, individuals remain confined to low-paying, low-skilled jobs.


Social factors such as discrimination and social exclusion create social poverty traps. These dynamics impede access to resources, opportunities, and upward mobility. Discrimination based on race, gender, or ethnicity perpetuates inequality, reinforcing other forms of poverty.


Generational poverty traps ensue when poverty persists across family lines. Children born into impoverished households face limited access to education, healthcare, and proper nutrition. They also contend with inherited financial burdens that hinder their prospects.


Institutional poverty traps arise from weak governance and corruption. Ineffective institutions, inadequate rule of law, and rampant corruption impede economic growth, entrepreneurship, and access to essential services. These institutional shortcomings perpetuate poverty within communities.

Addressing the Poverty Trap

In his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Jeffrey Sachs advocates for aid agencies to function like venture capitalists, supporting startup companies as a means to break the cycle of poverty.

Sachs suggests that developing nations should receive comprehensive aid to kickstart their efforts to overcome poverty. He highlights six critical types of capital lacking among the extremely poor: human capital, business capital, infrastructure, natural capital, public institutional capital, and knowledge capital.

In his book, Sachs explains, “The poor begin with minimal capital per person and become entrenched in poverty as the capital per person ratio diminishes across generations. This decline occurs when population growth outpaces capital accumulation… The key to increasing per capita income lies in whether net capital accumulation can match population growth.”

Sachs argues that the public sector should prioritise investments in:

  • Human capital encompass health, education, and nutrition
  • Infrastructure including roads, power, water, sanitation, and environmental conservation
  • Natural capital focusing on biodiversity and ecosystem preservation
  • Public institutional capital ensuring effective public administration, judicial systems, and law enforcement
  • Parts of knowledge capital supporting scientific research in health, energy, agriculture, climate, and ecology

Regarding business capital investments, Sachs suggests leaving this to the private sector, which he believes can allocate funds more efficiently to develop profitable enterprises essential for sustained growth and lifting entire populations out of poverty.

Overcoming Poverty Traps

Delving deeper into strategies to overcome poverty traps, considering Sachs’ insights, it’s important to explore various approaches that hold promise. This compilation isn’t exhaustive but offers a broad perspective on potential strategies, acknowledging their variable efficacy over time.


One pivotal strategy in breaking the poverty cycle is investing in education. High-quality education, characterised by proficient educators, up-to-date curricula, and modern facilities, equips children with the skills and knowledge vital for accessing better job prospects. Ensuring equitable access to education, particularly for marginalised demographics, is critical for combating inequality. Moreover, vocational and technical training initiatives prepare individuals for skilled employment, presenting a viable route out of poverty.

Healthcare Accessibility

Affordable healthcare access stands as a fundamental approach to poverty alleviation. Establishing and sustaining healthcare facilities, particularly in underserved regions, guarantees crucial medical services accessibility. Emphasising preventive healthcare measures such as immunizations and health education diminishes disease prevalence and long-term healthcare expenses. Expanding health insurance coverage is imperative to shield low-income individuals and families from the financial hardships associated with medical costs.

Infrastructure Development

Investing in fundamental infrastructure like transportation networks, electricity, and water supply enhances living standards and stimulates economic activity. This is particularly impactful in remote or marginalised areas where resource accessibility and connectivity are limited. Improved infrastructure facilitates access to markets, education, healthcare, and employment opportunities.

Credit Accessibility

Boosting financing and credit accessibility can alleviate poverty traps. Microfinance institutions extend small loans to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners who lack access to conventional banking services, enabling them to invest in income-generating ventures and enhance their economic prospects. Furthermore, broadening access to formal banking services, savings accounts, and insurance products for marginalised communities fosters financial inclusion.

Social Inclusion

Advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment is not solely a matter of human rights but also a pivotal driver of poverty reduction. When women have equal access to education, economic opportunities, and leadership positions, entire communities stand to benefit. Robust anti-discrimination laws and policies safeguard the rights of minority groups and promote social inclusion.

Enhancing Governance and Combating Corruption

Transparent governance, adherence to the rule of law, and robust accountability mechanisms are paramount for curbing corruption and ensuring equitable resource allocation. Independent anti-corruption agencies play a crucial role in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases, thereby deterring corrupt practices. Additionally, advocacy efforts advocate for policy reforms to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and advance equity and inclusion.


Poverty traps are entrenched cycles of impoverishment, wherein people or communities find it challenging to break free. The factors contributing to these cycles often include meagre earnings, constrained educational and healthcare access, and limited economic prospects. These elements mutually reinforce, ensnaring people in persistent deprivation and impeding their escape from poverty without external assistance. Nonetheless, there are various avenues to disrupt poverty traps and foster economic and financial parity for everyone.

DISCLAIMER:  This article is for informational purposes only. 2 Ezi has no relationships with any organisation mentioned.

Scroll to Top