The Goals for Sustainable Development provide an agenda for governments, agencies, and individuals to work toward universal prosperity. With more than 780 million people living below the international poverty line (1.90 US dollars per day), poverty underlies many of the goals. Poverty serves as a root cause of hunger, poor health, inadequate education, and many other manifestations of inequality worldwide. The first of the 17 UN Goals for Sustainable Development, therefore, aims to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.
Although the UN notes an improvement in the reduction of extreme poverty worldwide since 2000, this has not stopped a dramatic increase in global wealth disparity that continues to rise. By 2030, the mission to end poverty aims to reduce extreme poverty (defined as living on less than 1.25 US dollars per day) by half, discerning the models and approaches that work for each nation.
The stories in this collection highlight approaches and success factors that address systemic causes of poverty. In order to achieve economic gains and combat poverty, approaches must be inclusive, enrolling various stakeholders and communities in decision-making processes.
Economic gains achieved must also foster community resilience, especially amid climate and other environmental challenges. The women who farmer an arid region of southern India switched from planting maize and wheat to millet, a more resilient crop that has reversed the fortunes of their village. Elsewhere, in Pakistan, a soil renewal program sponsored jointly by the UN and local government has allowed farmers to dramatically enhance crop yields and boost income. In another story, we learn about how GiveDirectly piloted a research program to gather data on the benefits of universal basic income in 6,000 Kenyan households. In the context of the pandemic, we learn about California's "homeless-to-motel" plan, under which society's poorest and most vulnerable are moved off the streets and out of jails to proper housing.
Click here for more stories in the Solutions Story Tracker on ending poverty.
- Identify and list some of the consequences of poverty. How does the issue of poverty act as a root cause of other social issues?
- Define “absolute poverty” and “relative poverty.” Describe different ways that poverty manifests itself and locate geographic discrepancies in poverty. Explain how these metrics change—or do not change—in relation to economic growth.
- Examine factors that have led to the decline in extreme poverty since the 1990s. What solutions have worked, and why? Meanwhile, what factors have contributed to continued growth of economic disparity? Compare the two trends and discuss the significance of both in relation to achieving the 2030 targets.
- How do increased climate risks impact efforts at reducing poverty and building protective social systems? What populations are most at risk?
- Evaluate California’s “homeless-to-motel” plan. Describe how such schemes might be used in the future to combat poverty and homelessness. Articulate whether you think this is something the government should do even if we’re not in crisis. Why or why not? What are the challenges of implementing such a system?
- Identify an Issue Area or Success Factor related to Goal 1 that is of interest to you. Next, create a collection, using stories from the Solutions Story Tracker. Use the stories in your collection as the basis for a group discussion or activity.
- Design a program for your community targeted at reducing inequality and poverty. Consider also how solutions implemented in your geographic location might differ from solutions implemented elsewhere.
- Have students discuss and understand the difference between first-order and second-order effects. Apply these concepts to the study of poverty. Consider the way that chronic stress and anxiety due to insufficient income can affect an individual's health. Consider, also, the intergenerational effects of poverty and ways that poverty can affect participation in civil society. The discussion can include not only the effects of poverty itself, but also the effects of various policies aimed at addressing poverty.
- Poverty can be measured in two ways—as relative, which depends on the context within which it is measured, and absolute. Absolute poverty relates to the defined threshold for global income levels – 1.90 USD per day is the international poverty line; living below 1.25 USD per day marks extreme poverty. Relative poverty relates to the standard of living in a particular area. This might look different in developing regions, versus affluent regions. Although the global share of poverty has fallen to about 10%, sub-Saharan Africa still suffers from a 38% poverty level in 2018. Typically, relative poverty occurs when income falls below a determined median range for a specific location—in the United States, in 2015, the poverty threshold for a single person was 11,770 USD and 24,250 USD for a family of four. Consider that those who experience relative poverty might not lack basic needs—how else might they be deprived?
- Between 1990 and 2015, according to the latest UN report. Use the report to identify targets and processes that have worked, as well as challenges that remain. In particular, note the rising global wealth inequality, and consider how this impacts risk mitigation in vulnerable areas.
- UN 2030 Target: “By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters.” Indicators include: numbers of people affected by disasters; economic losses (measured in GDP) due to disasters; and national and local programs aimed at disaster risk reduction.
- The homeless live in tightly packed encampments and pose a threat for rapid virus spread. Enabling them to self-isolate not only serves public health goals, but also apparently decreases crime. The plan is not cheap, but neither are the civic, judicial, and community costs of homelessness. In the future, such arrangements could possibly continue to combat homelessness. Many cities provide “Single Occupancy Dwellings” or SOD’s in which one person lives in a small room in a converted hotel as an alternative to living on the streets. Such arrangements promote access to health care, mental health, and support groups. Another possibility is for this approach to be used to ease jail overcrowding. Student answers to the next question will vary. The primary challenges are funding and political will. These types of programs are relatively expensive and not particularly popular politically. Homelessness is the kind of problem that everyone agrees is a problem, but there’s very little agreement on what should be done to address it successfully.
- Have the students identify Issue Areas and Success Factors using the Story Tracker. Have the students create a collection around either a particular Issue Area related to poverty (housing and homelessness, paid leave policies, child health, planning for extreme weather and other risk reduction, investment in communities and infrastructure, access to health care, etc.) or, around a Success Factor (addressing root causes, micro-finance, collective action, etc.). Using their collections as a basis, students can then revisit the questions presented in this lesson.
- For more advanced students, educators should consider integrating community-based learning or scenario-based learning methods. Students should design scenarios that test different policy frameworks and possible approaches toward meeting the 2030 benchmarks. Activities can vary by class and instructors are encouraged to design their own!