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Poverty and Poor Kids

Poverty and Poor Kids

Poverty is a social issue of concern in most societies. According to Crossman (2019), people in poverty lack the necessary resources for basic survival or fail to meet a certain level of the living standards they are expected to reach based on their region of residence. In this regard, poverty varies from place to place because the income level that determines poverty also varies across distinct regions. Nonetheless, sociologists argue that poverty is best defined by conditions of existence (Crossman, 2019). These include insufficient food or access to basic needs like food, shelter, and clothing. As a result, poverty is characterized by hunger, starvation, inadequate or no education, lack of access to healthcare, and alienation from society (Crossman, 2019). Evidently, poverty is a social condition that needs close attention and the development of prompt and effective solutions. As such, this paper will delve into a documentary by Frontline that discusses poverty among families of children in poverty. The paper will also discuss the causes of poverty, the social segments that benefit from poverty from functionalists’ viewpoints, the perspectives of conflict theorists, and the social changes needed to alleviate poverty.

Summary of the Frontline Documentary: Poor Kids

Frontline follows four young children from three families and documents their financial struggles, thereby offering a firsthand look at what poverty looks like for young children (Frontline, 2017). These children and their families live in different regions, but their struggles are similar. For instance, the parents are either laid off from their jobs or cannot secure decent-paying jobs and, therefore, struggle to pay household bills for things like electricity, water, and plumbing. In addition, all families are forced to move from their houses to smaller spaces or homeless shelters. Also, all families struggle to provide quality education to their children and cannot access nutritious or balanced diets. Another notable characteristic is that their peers alienate some of these children from school.

Causes of Poverty

Sociology perceives poverty as a consequence of the unequal distribution of resources and wealth within nations and globally. Sociologists view it as a social condition resulting from the unequal and inequitable distribution of income and wealth and the exploitative effects of global capitalism (Crossman, 2019). Nonetheless, this unequal distribution of resources and wealth results from various factors and, in some cases, a combination of multiple factors. The first factor is a poor economy (Podcast, 2022). A weak economy leads to economic recessions. A recession refers to a period characterized by a significant decline in economic activities (Rodeck, 2022). Recessions can last for months or years; therefore, since companies make fewer sales and low profits, a nation experiences negative gross domestic product (GDP) and increased unemployment rates since companies are forced to lay off some employees. Notably, when people lose their jobs, they find it challenging to secure other jobs, especially during a recession. Consequently, unemployment drives the affected individuals into poverty, and they sometimes become homeless because they lack the finances to pay for basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, and education.

Another causal factor for poverty is corruption. Corruption is characterized by bribery, favored access to public resources, preferential insuring of public contracts and procurements, consistent violation of the law, and prohibited hiring in the public sector, among others (Hong Ng et al., 2013). According to Hong Ng et al. (2013), the World Bank notes that corruption has harmful effects, ranging from poor public service delivery, misdirection and misallocation of public resources, and discouragement of the driving forces for reforms. In addition, corruption weakens the public’s trust and the credibility of a country and prevents foreign investors from investing, thus reducing public revenue (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Further, corruption leads to a biased tax system within a nation, which, in most cases, favors the elite rich. For instance, corruption allows the rich and the most influential individuals to evade their tax obligations; thus, the tax burden falls on the poor.

Consequently, assets and wealth continue to accumulate in the few wealthy elites as the poor continue to lack. In addition, the rich can use their wealth, influence, or power when borrowing funds and investing, which leads to inequality in asset ownership and the inability of the poor to borrow funds or invest and increase their income. Similarly, through corruption, the rich can utilize their money and power to formulate and implement policies that favor income inequality and programs that encourage preferential tax treatment of their assets (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Ultimately, all these aspects of corruption prevent the growth necessary to pull people out of poverty.

Lack of education is another factor that contributes to poverty. As already mentioned, poverty is characterized by low or no access to education and other human development opportunities. Inarguably, education is necessary for increasing one’s income and improving one’s quality of life. Therefore, without education, the reverse of this is true. Besides, developing countries experience increased poverty rates because of the lack of education, training skills, and productive knowledge (Hong Ng et al., 2013). To elaborate, without proper training, one would not obtain the skills and knowledge for competency in the workforce, leading to low-paying jobs, low-income levels, and increased chances of becoming poor. Notably, individuals with no education, particularly those with a high school degree, experience unemployment rates approximately three to five times more than individuals with high school degrees (Hong Ng et al., 2013). In other words, low-paying jobs have limited benefits, poor working conditions, and low wages, further contributing to increased poverty levels among families. Conclusively, increased poverty levels and economic constraints prevent a significant percentage of children from low-income families from obtaining an education (Hong Ng et al., 2013). As such, poverty becomes a life cycle or a multidimensional problem among impoverished families because it leads to a lack of education, which leads to low-wage employment or unemployment, which, in turn, leads to increased poverty levels.

Adverse climate change is another major causal factor for poverty. Climate changes like global warming, increased temperatures, and lack of rainfall economically hurt regions or states that rely on agricultural economics for income and revenue generation. Essentially, low and unreliable rainfall levels and leached soils are among the adverse effects of climate change (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Such effects result in declined agricultural activities (Hong Ng et al., 2013), reducing GDP and income levels for farmers and other individuals relying on agricultural economics for income generation. Also, adverse climate changes may result in long periods of famine, as observed in a country like Ethiopia (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Long drought periods in such countries imply that such countries are at a higher risk of experiencing significant rates of reduced food production. Subsequently, decreased food production rates mean that the country cannot produce enough food to meet the demands of its people. Reduced food production also implies that individuals and companies that rely on economic activities involved in food production experience low sales and income, thereby increasing poverty levels.

Social Segments That Benefit From Poverty: A Functionalist’s Viewpoint

Functionalism is a theoretical perspective that views society as a social structure comprising sub-structures such as family, institutions, norms, and hierarchies (Gómez-Diago, 2020). Accordingly, this theoretical perspective focuses on the functions these sub-structures perform in society. In this regard, function refers to the degree to which one action promotes or inhibits system maintenance (Gómez-Diago, 2020). According to the theory, an activity that inhibits societal maintenance or negatively impacts society is a dysfunction. In this case, poverty might be seen as a dysfunction due to its negative impacts. However, proponents of functionalism believe poverty is best explained from the social stratification perspective of functionalism. Ideally, functionalists argue that social stratification and inequality are beneficial and are needed to motivate individuals to perform their complex roles or functions. For instance, combating poverty requires policymakers and social workers. Notably, the role of policymakers and social workers is to address the issues affecting people in poverty, represent their agendas, and help them out of poverty. While performing these roles, policymakers and social workers earn a living and obtain funds or ensure the passage of policies that benefit people in poverty and, hence, a better society. Therefore, from a functionalist’s perspective, social segments that benefit from poverty include the people in poverty, social institutions comprising policymakers and social workers, and society at large.

The Perspectives of Conflict Theorists Regarding Poverty

Conflicts between individuals and groups are inevitable. Conflict theory’s major focus is the differences in power and resources between people or among social groups. This theory takes on a philosophical perspective, stating that conflict arises from competition for limited resources and power (Paige & Frederick, 2014). From a conflict theorist’s viewpoint, the constant competition for limited resources and power results in inequalities like the unequal distribution of resources, leading to poverty. Conflict theory also assumes that society comprises two groups: the proletariat (the working class) and the bourgeois (the high class). The proletariat and the bourgeois are in constant competition for resources and power. However, the bourgeois group uses their wealth and influence to gain control over societal sub-structures like religion, culture, and politics. Hence, resources and power remain under the ownership of the few wealthy elites, while the proletariat group continues to lack them.

Some parts of the Frontline Poor Kids video exemplify some aspects of the conflict theory approach. For instance, there is a part where three kids fight for empty cans. Collecting empty cans is one way of making money for these children in the region (Frontline, 2017). As such, the limited availability of empty cans results in a competition, so the kids have a little fight. Subsequently, two of the kids end up having empty cans, while one of them does not. This contentious interaction between the kids results from competition over limited resources (empty cans). In addition, the fact that one of the kids goes without any cans points to the inequality that results from competition over limited resources, as conflict theorists explain.

Social Changes Needed To Alleviate Poverty

Several social changes need to be made to reduce the problem of poverty. These changes should target the causal factors for poverty. Therefore, the first social change is creating policies or a framework that encourages economic growth and positive transformation. Such policies should aim to facilitate foreign and private sector investments, which will boost the economy, avoid recessions, reduce unemployment rates, increase income levels, and, ultimately, reduce poverty. Secondly, these policies should ensure they address the issues of people in poverty and improve their welfare. Thirdly, people, especially those in poverty, should be given the opportunity to invest and increase their income level. After all, overall societal success depends on a significant reduction in poverty. Therefore, policies should be created to ensure easy access to market information and investment loans.

The second social change should focus on eradicating corruption. Eradicating corruption can be done by promoting and advocating for transparency, especially in the government’s budgeting. Notably, transparency will help eliminate corruption and avoid misallocating or misdirecting resources and wasteful spending (Hong Ng et al., 2013). In such a case, resources, like income and other assets, will be equally distributed, hence pulling people out of poverty. In addition, a transparent government will also help prevent many other factors that contribute to increased poverty levels. For instance, a transparent government will likely encourage positive political and economic development in a country (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Positive political and economic development implies that the country will thrive economically; therefore, individuals and companies will benefit from higher income levels and increased sales.

Moreover, the third social change is enabling easy access to education. The government, other wealthy nations, and not-for-profit organizations can help with ensuring easy access to education for all children. Accordingly, they can create and fund literacy programs for those in poverty (Hong Ng et al., 2013). Also, from the Frontline Poor Kids video, it is evident that most children from low-income families cannot attend college after they graduate from high school because college is expensive (Frontline, 2017). Therefore, the government, other wealthy nations, and not-for-profit organizations should provide financial assistance to these families. There should also be public awareness programs to inform the public about this societal issue and encourage volunteers to donate to ensure every child from an impoverished family gets an education. Remarkably, quality education is one of the most vital solutions to help people pull themselves out of poverty (Hong Ng et al., 2013).

Lastly, creating and spreading awareness of the importance of environmental sustainability is one social change that would help alleviate poverty. Human activities greatly impact environmental sustainability and are thus the major contributors to pollution and adverse climate changes (Simon et al., 2019). Therefore, creating programs and awareness to encourage people to adopt environmentally friendly lifestyles is one key way to alleviate poverty resulting from negative climate changes. One effective way to create awareness is through social media, where experts can use platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to educate the public about the damage unsustainable living causes, including environmental degradation and poverty in regions that rely on agriculture and food production for income and revenue generation.


Crossman, A. (2019). Understanding poverty and its various types. ThoughtCo. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

Frontline. (2017). Poor Kids. PBS. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

Gómez-Diago, G. (2020). Functionalist Theory. The SAGE International Encyclopedia of Mass Media and Society.

Hong Ng, A. H., Farinda, A. G., Kan, F. K., Lim, A. L., & Ting, T. M. (2013). Poverty: Its Causes and Solutions. International Journal of Business, Human and Social Sciences, 7(8), 2472–2477.

Paige, S., & Frederick, D. A. (2014). Conflict Theory. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

Podcast, F. T. (2022). Causes of poverty in America. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

Rodeck, D. (2022). What is a Recession? Forbes. Retrieved November 30, 2022, from

Simon, E., Dickey, J., Reece, J., & Burton, R. (2019). Campbell Essential Biology (7th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.


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Poverty and Poor Kids

Poverty and Poor Kids

Watch one of the following documentaries:
Then, answer the following questions. Make sure you number the answers. You will need at least three academic references besides the video.
1. Give a summary in no more than 100 words
2. What are the causes of the problem the video describes? (You need to research the topic for this question. Write your in-text references by using APA style).
3. Which segments of society benefit from this situation? (Do not answer that nobody benefits.
Some segments do. Please think deeply about this and answer as a functionalist would).
4. Conflict theorists would say that this problem is the result of competition between social groups or social classes and the resulting inequality. Please point to parts of the video that exemplify the conflict approach.
5. What social changes are needed to alleviate the problem?

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