When Did Poverty Become an Issue


Poverty is a social issue that has plagued humanity throughout history. It is defined as the lack of access to basic human needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. Understanding the history of poverty is crucial to developing effective policies and programs to address this issue. This article explores when poverty became an issue, from ancient times to the present day.

Pre-Industrial Revolution

Poverty has existed in almost every society in history. In ancient times, poverty was often viewed as a natural part of life, with little effort made to alleviate it. During the medieval period in Europe, poverty was often attributed to moral failings and was often dealt with by religious organizations. The Renaissance saw some progress in addressing poverty, with the development of charitable organizations and the establishment of hospitals and orphanages.

Industrial Revolution and Its Impact on Poverty

The Industrial Revolution marked a significant turning point in the history of poverty. The emergence of modern capitalism led to the rapid growth of industrialization, which in turn led to mass migration to cities and the growth of slums. Working conditions were often harsh, and labor was exploited. Child labor became widespread, with children as young as five or six working long hours in dangerous conditions. The consequences of child labor included malnutrition, stunted growth, and lifelong health problems.

The 20th Century and the Fight Against Poverty

The 20th century saw significant progress in the fight against poverty. Social welfare programs began to emerge, with the establishment of programs such as social security and unemployment insurance. The New Deal in the United States provided a comprehensive system of social welfare programs, including the establishment of the welfare state. Poverty remained an issue in developing countries, however, and efforts to address it continued. The rise of neoliberalism in the late 20th century had a significant impact on poverty reduction efforts, as governments began to rely more on market-based solutions.

Contemporary Poverty

Despite progress in reducing poverty, it remains a significant issue in many parts of the world. In 2021, an estimated 9.2% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Globalization has had both positive and negative impacts on poverty reduction efforts, as economic growth has lifted many out of poverty, but has also led to greater income inequality. The relationship between poverty and inequality is complex, and addressing one often requires addressing the other. The future of poverty reduction efforts remains uncertain, but continued efforts will be necessary to address this ongoing issue.


Poverty has been an issue throughout history, and while progress has been made in addressing it, it remains an ongoing challenge. Understanding the history of poverty is essential to developing effective policies and programs to address this issue. While poverty is a complex issue, continued efforts to address it are necessary to ensure that everyone has access to basic human needs. We must continue to work together to reduce poverty and create a more equitable and just society.

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