How to Overcome Generational Poverty 2021


There are no guaranteed solutions for ending poverty that carries over multiple generations in families, but generational poverty is not impossible to overcome. If you're experiencing poverty yourself, take actions like prioritizing your education, caring for your personal wellbeing, seeking supportive guidance, and setting future goals. If you're an educator or ordinary citizen who wants to help others experiencing generational poverty, focus on being understanding, flexible, and open-minded with your efforts.


Method 1 of 3:Taking Action for Yourself

1Seek out support in building your educational skills. You've heard it before because it's true—getting an education greatly improves your chances of overcoming poverty. Take the initiative and work hard to achieve success in school, but don't feel as though you must do it alone. Accept assistance and advice from teachers, tutors, guidance counselors, administrators, mentors, friends and family, and anyone else who supports your educational goals.

Teachers and other supportive individuals can help you build your note-taking, studying, and test-taking skills, for example. If you're struggling in certain areas, such as reading or math, ask about accommodations or extra assistance that may be available to you.

2Dedicate yourself to earning a high school diploma. While there are no guarantees in life, completing more years of education—and especially earning a diploma—greatly increases your odds of rising out of generational poverty. A high school diploma doesn't need to be your final educational goal, but it should at least be your first one.

Individuals with high school diplomas have significantly higher average lifetime earnings than those without diplomas.

Depending on your situation, you might set another goal to earn a college scholarship, for example. Or, you might set a goal to enter a trade school or apprenticeship program.

3Set actionable goals for your post-education future. People stuck in a cycle of poverty often struggle to plan for—or even put much thought to—their future, due to the struggles they're facing today. However, planning for your future and setting goals for it are important parts of navigating yourself out of poverty. Education is again vital here, because it both encourages you to think about your future and opens up opportunities for your future.

Ask yourself where you want to be and what you want to be doing in 5, 10, or 20 years. Then, list both what you'll need to do to get there and the obstacles you'll face.

Tell the supportive people in your life—such as a teacher, coach, or community mentor—about your future goals and accept their advice and assistance.

4Stimulate your mind with hobbies and activities you enjoy. When you're struggling just to get by, things like hobbies can seem like a waste of time. However, activities that make you think and improve your mood benefit both your physical health and your brain development—especially if you're a child, teen, or young adult.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source

Activities ranging from doing crossword puzzles to collecting stamps to contributing to articles can stimulate your mind and support a healthy brain. This in turn can benefit your school performance, improve your emotional wellbeing, and encourage a more positive outlook.

Look for free or low-cost activities offered after school or at local community centers—such as an introductory cooking, photography, or foreign language class.

5Prioritize good nutrition and regular physical activity as much as you can. Like hobbies, spending money on fresh produce or taking the time to go for a jog may feel like a waste of resources when you're struggling with poverty. However, your physical, mental, and emotional health are all linked, and strengthening all 3 will aid your efforts to change your circumstances. Improving your personal wellbeing is never a waste!Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source

As a student, take advantage of any before-school or after-school food programs that may be available, as well as school lunches. Don't be afraid to ask the cafeteria staff, school nurse, or school nutritionist for advice on healthy food options.

Spend the first part of your food budget on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins whenever possible, then use whatever is left (if necessary) on less healthy options. Use food assistance programs, farmer's markets, and other cost-saving options when available.

Exercise doesn't need to be expensive. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk at least 5 days per week is enough to provide clear health benefits.

6Develop money management skills with the help of community supporters. While you shouldn't buy into the stereotype that people living in poverty are naturally bad with money, it is true that you may not have had the experience or access to resources that help build money management skills. Check your local community center, public library, school, community college, religious organization, or social organization to see if they offer seminars or classes on money management or household budgeting.Trustworthy SourceAmerican Psychological AssociationLeading scientific and professional organization of licensed psychologistsGo to source

Even if you aren't currently able to put money into savings, learning to budget your money more effectively can help put you on a better financial track.

Check out household budgeting apps and websites as well.

7Resist the urge to blame yourself and give up hope. When generational poverty is your life experience, it's easy to form a fatalistic perspective—in other words, a “that's just the way it is and always will be” mindset. You may even buy into the notion that your poverty is all your fault—if you tried harder, worked harder, and so on, you wouldn't be poor. If you hold these beliefs, you're unnecessarily limiting your ability to see any path out of poverty.

Some people blame themselves entirely for poverty, some blame others—the wealthy, the government, and so on—and some do both. Deciding who to blame will not help you overcome poverty.

Instead of assigning blame, accept that poverty results from a wide range of social, economic, environmental, political, and individual factors. Becoming more aware of why poverty exists makes it easier to recognize potential paths out of poverty.

8Spend your time with others who believe that poverty can be overcome. If you live in generational poverty, you probably already associate largely with other people who are in similar circumstances. Whenever possible, choose to associate with others in poverty who are hopeful for and supportive of your efforts to overcome poverty.

There are optimists and pessimists, as well as supportive people and non-supportive people, living in generational poverty. Look for the person who says “I know it's hard, but I believe in you,” not “I don't know why you bother.”

Share your experiences, both positive and negative, in your effort to overcome poverty. Offer your support and encouragement to others making the same effort.

9Cut ties with negative influences when it's necessary for your goals. Not everyone may be as determined as you are to overcome poverty. Some may even see it as a betrayal of “where you come from,” and pressure you not to “reject” them. If they cannot be supportive of your efforts, you may have no choice but to break free of these individuals.

You might, for example, have a friend who wants you to skip school or forget about doing homework because “it doesn't matter” anyway. Be polite but direct with them: “Education is important to me. If you can't accept that, then we can't be friends.”

Poverty may be a part of your life experience, but it doesn't define who you are. Don't allow others to convince you that it does.

Method 2 of 3:Helping as an Educator

1Create a safe and understanding learning environment. Students who are caught in the cycle of generational poverty may bring feelings of inadequacy or even shame to the classroom. This can be made even worse through bullying, taunting, or simply a lack of understanding of their challenges. As an educator, make sure your students feel accepted and respected in the classroom.

Offer positive encouragement whenever possible. Welcome your students to the classroom and tell them you're glad they are there. Students living in poverty often have to make great efforts simply to get to school.

Watch closely for evidence of bullying and do not allow it to fester.

2Be flexible with your instruction methods, including homework. Students living in generational poverty often have home settings that aren't conducive to doing homework. They may not have the space or supplies to do homework, and they may not get the time or support from family that other students do. Look for ways to reduce the homework workload by shifting more learning to the classroom.

For instance, instead of sending home a sheet of math homework, set up a group classroom activity that covers the same principles.

Students who are experiencing poverty may also have less access to printed materials and be more comfortable with verbal communication. Reading and analyzing print-based materials may be more challenging for them.

3Encourage each student to find their unique motivations. This is a good strategy for students of all backgrounds, and can be particularly helpful for students who are in the grip of generational poverty. They may not come from backgrounds where planning for the future is prioritized, but they still have hopes, dreams, and goals that you can help them identify and develop.

Some students may be motivated to make a parent or sibling proud, others may have a career goal in mind, and still others may not really know what their motivation is. Observe and listen to them and offer frequent support to help them discover their motivations.

4Use field trips and class visitors to expand students' horizons. Your students may live inside a “bubble” of poverty and have limited exposure to people living outside of it. Provide them with opportunities to interact with inspirational figures, especially people who come from similar backgrounds as the students. Instead of just telling them that education can be a pathway out of generational poverty, you can also show them.

Taking a field trip to a museum is a great option, but even going to a local library and talking to people who have built careers out of literacy and learning can be inspirational.

Invite guest speakers from various fields, like industry, science, medicine, and so on. Encourage the speakers to talk about both the struggles they faced and the support they received on their path.

Method 3 of 3:Contributing as a Citizen

1Support an accessible and agile educational system. Good educational opportunities do not guarantee a path out of generational poverty, but poor educational opportunities nearly guarantee that there won't be a path. Use your voice, your vote, your time, your talents, and your wallet to champion an educational system that welcomes all students and adapts to their needs.

Of course, people disagree on how best to support quality education. Some focus on increasing funding for public schools, while others advocate for increased school choice and charter schools, for example. It's up to you to determine what you think are the best ways to improve education in your area.

2Encourage opportunities to develop planning and perseverance skills. People living in generational poverty often believe—due to their own experiences—that planning ahead and sticking to the current plan aren't worthwhile. However, planning and perseverance skills—what some people call “grit”—are vital skills to develop. Supporting activities like sports and service organizations helps to provide access to opportunities to develop these skills.

Try coaching a sports team or leading a scout troop, for example, and make sure to provide a positive and supportive environment for all.

3Advocate for support programs that offer wide-ranging services. Generational poverty is an extraordinarily complex problem, so it's no surprise that there aren't any simple solutions. Governmental, charitable, and/or private support programs are definitely part of the solution, but the programs can't be rigid, inflexible, and single-focused. Instead, programs should help address the range of economic, social, family, and individual challenges that poverty creates.

Direct your support toward programs that offer wide-ranging services in areas like healthcare, nutrition, childcare, mental health care, literacy, and skill-building.

As a voter, be skeptical of politicians who either want to ignore the problem or just seem to want to “throw money at it.” Back candidates who recognize the complexity of the problem and promote broad-based solutions.

4Evaluate your own preconceptions and biases about poverty. Even if you're someone who is actively engaged in trying to reduce poverty in your society, you may be carrying around biases that limit your impact. You might catch yourself thinking that poor people are lazy, that they don't care enough, or that the system is so stacked against them that they have no chance, for example. Instead of ignoring these feelings or beating yourself up over them, accept them and work to overcome them.

There's no single type of “poor person,” just like there's no single way to overcome poverty. Work to be accepting and understanding towards people experiencing generational poverty and open to a wide range of ways to address the issue.