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How Does Poverty Affect Human Critical Thinking And How Do Governments Benefit From That?


Illustration by Anna Parini


Poverty is one of the biggest challenges humanity faces today. It is a condition where individuals or households lack the resources necessary to meet their basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Despite efforts from governments and organizations to combat it, poverty persists. One of the less-discussed impacts of poverty is its effect on critical thinking.


Critical thinking is the ability to analyze information, evaluate arguments, and make reasoned judgments. It is an essential skill for individuals and societies to make informed decisions and solve problems. Poverty, however, can impair this ability, leading to a vicious cycle of disadvantage. The first way in which poverty affects critical thinking is by limiting access to education.


Education is the primary means by which individuals develop critical thinking skills. However, poverty often forces families to prioritize basic needs over education. Children from low-income families are more likely to drop out of school or never enroll in the first place. Without access to quality education, they are less able to develop the analytical and reasoning skills necessary for critical thinking.


Moreover, even those who do attend school may not receive an education that fosters critical thinking. Educational systems in many countries are often focused on rote learning and memorization. These methods discourage independent thinking, analysis, and creativity. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may be further disadvantaged by these systems.


Secondly, poverty can limit the range of experiences and perspectives that individuals are exposed to. Individuals from low-income backgrounds are less likely to travel, participate in extracurricular activities, and have access to cultural events.

As a result, their exposure to different ideas, worldviews, and ways of thinking is limited. This lack of exposure can lead to narrow thinking and an inability to understand and appreciate the diversity of human experience.


Finally, poverty can lead to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. Individuals from low-income backgrounds are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. Living in poverty can feel like a constant battle, with little hope of improving one's situation. This constant struggle can take a toll on an individual's mental well-being, making it difficult to engage in critical thinking.

In extreme cases, individuals may even develop a sense of resignation, believing that their circumstances are beyond their control. Given the negative impact of poverty on critical thinking, it is surprising that governments and other powerful entities benefit from it. One way in which governments benefit from impoverished populations is through political apathy. When individuals are struggling to meet their basic needs, they may not have the time, energy, or inclination to engage in politics. They may lack the resources to stay informed about current events or to advocate for themselves and their communities. This apathy allows those in power to maintain the status quo and enact policies that may not be in the best interests of the general population.


Moreover, poverty can be profitable for some governments and corporations. Companies may exploit cheap labor in countries with high poverty rates, allowing them to produce goods at a lower cost. Governments may also benefit from the political and economic instability that poverty can create. When people are struggling to put food on the table, they are less likely to question the status quo or demand political change. This lack of political engagement can allow governments to maintain their grip on power and prevent meaningful reform.


In conclusion, poverty is a pervasive issue that has wide-ranging consequences. It impacts critical thinking by limiting access to education, exposure to diverse perspectives, and mental well-being. Governments and corporations benefit from poverty by exploiting vulnerable populations and maintaining the status quo. To break this cycle of disadvantage, we need to invest in education and provide support for those living in poverty.

We also need to hold those in power accountable and demand policies that prioritize the well-being of all citizens, not just the privileged few. By doing so, we can create a more equitable world where everyone has the opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills and reach their full potential.

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