Poverty Trap

DEFINITION of 'Poverty Trap'

A mechanism which makes it very difficult for people to escape poverty. A poverty trap is created when an economic system requires a significant amount of various forms of capital in order to earn enough to escape poverty. When individuals lack this capital, they may also find it difficult to acquire it, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty.

BREAKING DOWN 'Poverty Trap'

In order to escape the poverty trap, it is argued that individuals in poverty must be given sufficient aid so that they can acquire the critical mass of capital necessary to raise themselves out of poverty. This theory of poverty helps to explain why certain aid programs which do not provide a high enough level of support may be ineffective at raising individuals from poverty. If those in poverty do not acquire the critical mass of capital, then they will simply remain dependent on aid indefinitely and regress if aid is ended.

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