Applying Key Sociological Concepts: Poverty

Modified: 29th Sep 2017
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Poverty is a global phenomenon that affects the whole world specially the developing nations. Poverty has affected millions of people suffering from hunger and thirst. Food, clean water, shelter and clothing are the basic needs for an individual to survive. However, people under poverty line have no access to these basic needs maybe due to economic reasons or other factors. According to Gilbert (2004), absolute poverty is the condition of people whose incomes are too low to satisfy their most basic needs (p. 3). Almost half of the world-over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (Global Issues, 2013). Poverty is a social issue that needs to be understood how certain class of people were able to cope under certain situation. Sociology bears the importance of helping me to understand poverty by applying sociological concept. Poverty has existed centuries ago and up to now it is still evident in recent society. As a society with interconnected parts, poverty affects not only a single person but rather the rest of the community. It is interesting to learn the different facets that contribute to poverty and how sociological perspective can be of use in understanding this dilemma.

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Illiteracy is one factor that contributes to poverty. Without proper education, people would find it hard to look for a decent job to sustain its everyday consumption and expenses. Generally, if a person cannot read and write, jobs correlating to his qualification would depend on his abilities. Poverty affects the nation economically and pulls the nation behind compared with other industrialized nation. Illiteracy brings down a society to poverty leading to widespread hunger and malnutrition. For instance, according to Igboanusi (2014), there are eight West African countries listed among the lowest ten countries in the world with regards to literacy rates including Burkina Fuso, Niger, Sierra Leone, Benin, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, and Guinea (p. 83). These are also the poorest countries in the world- an obvious indication that poverty rates and illiteracy rates are closely connected (Igboanusi, 2014, p. 83).

The social-conflict approach is a framework for building theory that sees society as an arena of inequality that generates conflict and change (Macionis, Jansson & Benoit, 2013, p. 12). Applying this sociological concept means that there is an unequal distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor which creates conflict among developing nations. The inequality between the two dimensions creates a gap which makes the poor becomes poorer and the rich becomes richer. To cite a specific example would be my country where I came from, the Philippines. In the Philippines, people who are in authority holds the power and through their power they take advantage of the poor. Philippine elected politicians use their position to benefit themselves like pocketing the money allotted for public development funds. Recently, there were three Philippine Senators who were charge with graft and plunder cases for taking part in monopolizing the priority development assistance fund (Cayabyab, 2014. para. 1). Also charged is alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, whose bogus non-government organization were allegedly used as dummy fronts to pocket billions of public funds through ghost projects (Cayabyab, 2014, para. 6). Though recently, President Aquino’s administration has been combating enormously to counter corruption in the Philippines and seeks transparency in all government activities. Looking back to social-conflict approach, the inequality between the rich and the poor creates conflict and change in the same way as it is portrayed in the Philippine government. In addition, poverty is a difficult thing to address unless there is a balance and equal opportunity given to all people.

The Feminism and Gender-Conflict approach is a point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between men and women (Macionis, Jansson & Benoit, 2013, p. 13). Feminism, in my opinion, seeks to find equality between two genders as not to place one gender ahead of the other. In my understanding, gender-conflict approach means that there is a preference of one gender over the other in terms of opportunity and employment sector. A specific example is the nation Botswana. Poverty in Botswana is a gender-based problem that disproportionately affects men and women (Raditloaneng & Mulenga, 2003, p. 5). The feminization of poverty is based on measures of poverty as they relate to male and female headed households (Raditloaneng & Mulenga, 2003, p. 6). These measures include income, head count ratios, and poverty sector approaches to gender-based poverty (Raditloaneng & Mulenga, 2003, p. 6). Women and female headed households tend to suffer poverty and economic marginalization more acutely than male-headed households in Botswana (Raditloaneng & Mulenga, 2003, p. 6).

Furthermore, Gilbert (2004) states that women experience a higher rate of poverty than men the world over (p. 179). When we measure poverty by the standard of “capabilities,” rather than simply income, the gender gap appears even wider, since females have less access to education, are often legally disadvantaged compared to males, and in many parts of the developing world do not yet have an equal voice in the political process (Gilbert, 2004, p. 179).

The race-conflict approach is a point of view that focuses on inequality and conflict between people of different racial and ethnic categories (Macionis, Jansson &Benoit, 2013, p. 14). In my opinion, race-conflict approach means that there is a prejudice among selected people when it comes to origin and background especially to the colored people. They are less regarded in term of employability. This approach relates to underprivileged black people in history wherein they were denied their rights. According to Baldwin & Johnson (1996), “when labor supply curves are upward-sloping, wage discrimination against black men reduces not only their relative wages but also their relative employment rates (p. 302). Intersectional research highlights how barriers to employment for low-income Black women are symptomatic of their double-jeopardy, due to marginalized racial and gender identities (Branch & Scherer, 2013, p. 355). Employment options available to black women were characterized by instability, exploitation, and invisibility (Branch & Scherer, 2013, p. 355). Driven by economic interests combined with assumptions shaped by gender and race, those in power actively blocked black women from entering better jobs time after time (Duffy, 2013, p. 1130). Though this perception has been casted out in our modern society. I believe in equality to all people whatever their race or ethnicity.

In conclusion, seeing a society in a sociological perspective helps me to understand the relationship among individuals and the society he lives in. It gives me a broader idea that a society is an interconnected network of people and people live together and creates their own culture, tradition, and ways of living through interaction. Different sociological theory or approach should be analyzed and understood to be able to relate to what is happening in our present surrounding why people behave in that manner and even sociological events that happen in the past. Likewise, poverty issue is a complex matter that encompasses a lot of sociological concept. It means that to be able to see it in a sociological perspective, I should consider using various approach to be able to understand the culture behind poverty and its consequences to people.


Baldwin, M. L., & Johnson, W.G. (1996). The Employment Effects of Wage Discrimination Against Black Men. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, 49(2), 302-316.

Branch, E., & Scherer, M. (2013). Mapping the Intersections in the Resurgence of the Culture of Poverty. Race, Gender & Class, 20(3/4), 346-358.

Cayabyab, M.J. (2014). Ombudsman files graft charges vs Napoles, Revilla, Estrada, and

Revilla: Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved from


Duffy, M. (2013). Opportunity denied: Limiting Black Women to Devalued Work. The American Journal of Sociology, (4), 1129.

Galbraith, J. (1979). The Nature of Mass Poverty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Gilbert, G. (2004). World Poverty: Contemporary World Issues. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO Inc.

Igboanusi, H. (2014). The Role of Language Policy in Poverty Alleviation in West Africa. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2014(225), 75-90. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2013-0066.

Macionis, J., Jansson, S. M., & Benoit, C. (2013). Society the Basics. Ontario, Canada: Pearson Canada Inc.

Raditloaneng, W., & Mulenga, D. (2003). Rethinking Poverty and Illiteracy: A case study of Botswana’s Urban Women. Convergence, 36(2), 5-27.

Shah, A. (2013). Poverty Facts and Stats: Global Issues. Retrieved from


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