What is Poverty? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Poverty is an issue faced by many people all over the world who do not have their most basic needs like food, water, and a home. This lesson will explain what poverty means, and provide some examples of what poverty is and what poverty is not.

Is Amy Poor?

Is Amy poor?
poor girl

Amy is a 6-year-old girl in the first grade. Several days a week, Amy comes to school looking a little shabby. Her hair is a mess and looks uncombed, her clothing looks like it's dirty, and her shoes seem old and have a few holes in them. Some of the kids in Amy's class look at her in a strange way and whisper about how she looks. Others just make fun of her. They wonder if Amy is poor, or just wants to dress this way.

What is Poverty?

So what exactly is poverty? First of all, poverty is a problem that countries all over the world face. Basically, someone who lives in poverty doesn't have the money to pay for things that most of us don't have to worry about. Some of the things that people who are living in poverty cannot afford are:

  • food
  • a home
  • clothes and new shoes
  • school supplies
  • vacations
  • medicine

Kids who live in poverty may come to school dressed differently like Amy. Poor kids might have to wear clothing that is dirty because their parents can't afford a washing machine, or they may not have the opportunity to wash themselves every day because they might not have a place to go home to after school. Some families who are poor may live in their cars, at homeless shelters, or even on the streets.

Even though some poor people are unemployed, or don't have jobs, many people who live in poverty work. These people are called the working poor. They face lots of problems as well, including:

  • having to work a lot for very little money
  • not having much education
  • being scared of losing their jobs
  • not being able to pay for regular doctor check-ups

What Poverty is Not

Fancy sneakers

Now that we have an idea of what it means to be poor, let's take a look at what being poor doesn't mean. I'm sure that at some point many of you have seen an incredible, one of-a-kind pair of sneakers. You want these sneakers so much! You look at the price tag and see they cost more than $100. You beg your parents to buy them for you. Much to your disappointment, they tell you they can't afford to buy them. This is not poverty.

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