We cannot agree more with James Baldwin, an American novelist and activist, who- with a touch of irony- said that “anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor”. Our selection of poverty quotes highlight the injustice of poverty, defined as a condition in which people are deprived of necessities. Poverty has continued to increase, even as the world creates more and more wealth.
Most people have not spent considerable time understanding what poverty means, and the saddening quality of life of those who are in poverty. These poverty quotes shed some light on this prevailing issue, which for the most part, society keeps trying to ignore.
78 Poverty Quotes
“Poverty diminishes confidence. So if someone offers you a grain store, even if you really need a plough, you take what is offered to you.”– Ann Cotton
Ann Cotton is the founder of Camfed also known as Campaign for Female Education whose mission is to eradicate poverty in Africa through the education of girls and the empowerment of young women. A passionate entrepreneur and a philanthropist, she earned the award of an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.
Ann Cotton succinctly highlights one of the harmful effects of poverty on people: it diminishes confidence. Beggars indeed can’t be choosers as they accept whatever others offer to them because half a loaf is better than none.
“A rich, robust, well-resourced public education is one of the best routes out of poverty and a pathway to prosperity.”– Randi Weingarten
Randi Weingarten is an American labour leader, attorney and educator. The daughter of a teacher, she developed an interest in labour unions and politics as a teenager. She is president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and former president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). She has made remarkable impacts in the education sector, fighting for better working conditions for teachers as well as providing all students with access to the education and services that they need.
Many have recognized education as the solution to some of the major socio-economic problems the world battles with today. Randi Weingarten, an educator herself, knows the importance of a well-resourced uninhibited public education in confronting poverty. When people receive an adequate education, they begin to recognize the opportunities for prosperity that surround them.
“The only way to have a better world and end poverty is by closing the gap between the top and the bottom.”– Jose Andres
José Andrés is a Spanish-American humanitarian and founder of World Central Kitchen (WCK) aimed at providing food disaster relief in the wake of emergencies around the globe. Many recognize him for both his culinary and his humanitarian work. He is the first chef to receive the Hispanic Heritage Award in the history of the awards by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. He also won the James Beard Award for outstanding US chef, one of the most prestigious awards a chef based in the United States can receive. He is one of the managers of the DC Central Kitchen foundation which offers culinary job training to homeless and low-income people.
José Andrés captures one disheartening fact about poverty in his quote. Undoubtedly, poverty occurs as a result of uneven distribution of resources wherein some people get rich at the expense of others. Until we bridge the impassable gap between the rich and the poor with equal chances at quality living, poverty will continue to fester in our society.
“Entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship. It drives everything: Job creation, poverty alleviation, innovation.”– Elliott Bisnow
Recognized by Inc. Magazine in 2009 as one of “America’s Coolest Young Entrepreneurs” in their 30s, Elliot Bisnow started his first venture with his dad, Mark, out of his college dorm room. He is the founder of Summit, a family of companies, which includes Summit Series, an organization best known for hosting events for young entrepreneurs, artists and activists.
Entrepreneurship has become one of the veritable means to achieve financial independence. In his poverty quote, Elliot Bisnow reminds us of the trifecta benefits entrepreneurship offers job creation, poverty alleviation and innovation.
“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”– Ban Ki-moon
Ban Ki-moon is a South Korean politician and diplomat who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations. He has spent his tenure mobilizing world leaders around some new global challenges such as climate change and economic upheaval, pandemics and increasing pressures involving food, energy and water. Also, he has given voice to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Amid the various political, environmental and socioeconomic problems, Ban Ki-Moon says that a solution for one is a solution for all. This could be true because we can find interrelations within these problems. Therefore, solving one will have a great impact on the other.
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”– Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who became South Africa’s first black president. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Nelson Mandela points out that poverty affects everyone, whether directly or indirectly. Nobody can have peace of mind in a world that is rife with poverty, injustice and gross inequality. If we desire to rest, we should work to proffer solutions and implement them.
“I can’t eradicate poverty, but at least for the people around me, I can help make sure no child is denied a dream.”– Priyanka Chopra
Listed among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes, Priyanka Chopra is an Indian actress and singer. She was the winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant and is one of India’s highest-paid and most popular entertainers. She has received numerous accolades, including a National Film Award and five Filmfare Awards.
Priyanka’s poverty quote is an allusion to being our neighbour’s keeper. We can all fight poverty, in our little capacity, by endeavouring to meet the needs of the poor in our surroundings.
“Worrying about bills, food, or other problems leaves less capacity to think ahead or to exert self-discipline. So, poverty imposes a mental tax.”– Nicholas Kristof
Nicholas Kristof is an American journalist and political commentator. A winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, he is a columnist for the Times. His columns have often focused on global health, poverty and gender issues in the developing world. Other prizes he has won include the George Polk Award, the Overseas Press Club award, the Michael Kelly award, the Online News Association award and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award.
Nicholas Kristof pinpoints another adverse effect of poverty on humanity: it hinders poor people from planning for their future. Thoughts of survival already occupy most parts of their minds. Nicholas concludes by saying poverty imposes a mental tax which is not far-fetched.
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”– Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor. Many consider her to be one of the 20th Century’s greatest humanitarians. She was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016.
With her poverty quote, Mother Theresa provides some insight into what poverty can be. Since poverty arises from deprivation, someone can be deprived of love and care and fall under this category.Mother Theresa submits that it is the greatest form of poverty, and we cannot but agree with her because every human wants to love and care from others. It’s the reason most of us are still living.
“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion about the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.”– Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath, inventor, scientist, printer, politician, freemason and diplomat and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin assisted in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, and he negotiated the 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War. He was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity.
Benjamin Franklin teaches us a lesson with this poverty quote. Known as a great thinker, Franklin proposes a better way to fight poverty; total eradication. Rather than making life easier for poor people by the provision of relief supplies, we should help them to get out of the precarious situation by empowering them.
“I know that government doesn’t have the all solutions that real solutions do not come from the top down. Instead, the ways to end poverty come from all of us. We are part of the solution.”– Kathleen Blanco
A pioneering woman in Louisiana politics, Kathleen Blanco was an American politician who served as the 54th Governor of Louisiana. She was a member of the Democratic Party. She was also the first and, to date, only woman elected as the state’s governor.
Blanco opined in her poverty quote that we should not depend on the government to do the work alone. In her view of things, we can only achieve poverty alleviation through collective effort.
“Always remember: the alleviation of poverty is never a political or economic issue – it is moral.”– F. Sionil Jose
Best known for his epic work, The Rosales Saga– five novels encompassing a hundred years of Philippine history, painting a vivid documentary of Filipino life, Francisco Sionil José is one of the most widely-read Filipino writers in the English language.
Sionil José questions our morality as a society. He argues that poverty is not a political or economic issue but moral. We can find some overt elements of truth in this concise statement. Why should some people enjoy prosperity while some wallow in abject poverty? Why do you deserve more than the next person? This is a big challenge to our morality.
Whether you live in a first world country or a third world country, there are people in your society who do not have the same access to resources which others do. Small, poor areas are forgotten by their government, while rich areas drive their poor into the dark to preserve an image of abundance. While there are structural changes needed, we can all start making a difference by simply sharing what we have. Look around you. There are opportunities to help someone living in poverty. We should all work to be the change we want to see.
More of the Best Poverty Quotes and Sayings:
“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”– James Baldwin
“I am deeply concerned about the impact of poverty on children because poverty can destroy their future and bind them to a life of misery.”– Grace Poe
“We know that over a billion people live in poverty around the world, and most of them are women and girls. If we can improve their lives, that has a positive effect on their communities, on their families, on their countries.”– Jeanne Shaheen
“Poverty must not be a bar to learning and learning must offer an escape from poverty.”– Lyndon B. Johnson
“The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t always have the things you need: it’s the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you’d do anything to lift that burden. As kids, we didn’t complain about being poor; we talked about how rich we were going to be and made moves to get the lifestyle we aspired to by any means we could.”– Jay-Z
“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”– Kofi Annan
“We are one of the richest countries in the world, and there is absolutely no reason why anyone should have to live in poverty.”– Jeremy Corbyn
“I am bullish on the global development. I am bullish on billions of people getting out of poverty.”– Marc Andreessen
“The present Arab uprising didn’t stem from Israel. The old guard is trying to keep down the young chickens. The old guard is better organized. They may win elections, but unless they have a solution to poverty, to corruption, to oppression, they will not last. I am with the young people.”– Shimon Peres
“No woman who works full time and plays by the rules should have to raise her family in poverty.”– Martin O’Malley
“Poverty is unnecessary.”– Muhammad Yunus
“The planet’s biggest problems have to do with sustainability, environmental decline, global poverty, disease, conflict and so forth. Really, they’re all interconnected – it’s one big problem, which is that the way we’re doing things can’t go on.”– Alex Steffen
“I want to wage war against illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, unfair competition, communitarianism, delinquency.”– Nicolas Sarkozy
“For every challenge we face – unemployment, poverty, crime, income growth, income inequality, productivity, competitiveness – a great education is a major component of the solution.”– Bruce Rauner
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”– Mother Teresa
“In the 21st century, I think the heroes will be the people who will improve the quality of life, fight poverty and introduce more sustainability.”– Bertrand Piccard
“The second truism that we must understand is that poverty does not create our social problems, our social problems create our poverty.”– Marco Rubio
“I left Xerox for the non-profit sector because it was clear to me that only public/private partnerships can pull off a turnaround plan at the scale we need to tackle global poverty.”– Anne M. Mulcahy
“Educated and productive young people are needed to help lift their countries out of poverty and create a wealthier, more secure world.”– Anne M. Mulcahy
“I believe that the war against terrorism and the war against poverty in these times of turmoil go together. So you – when you fight one, you have to fight the other.”– Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
“I love my mother the most in the world. She has seen a lot of poverty and loneliness and is very simple. Whenever I am in trouble, I go far away from her, as she is not at all strong. If I see her breaking, I break.”– Yo Yo Honey Singh
“We need to recognise that what really matters isn’t buying more and more consumer goods, but family, friends, and knowing that we are doing something worthwhile with our lives. Helping to reduce the appalling consequences of world poverty should be part of that reassessment.”– Peter Singer
“I just don’t think that the differences you make by donating to a museum or an art gallery really compare to the differences you make by donating to the charities that fight global poverty.”– Peter Singer
“The vast majority of immigrants – regardless of the conditions of war and poverty that may wrack their home countries – come and contribute to their new home country: building our roads, caring for our homes, children, and elders, and serving as doctors, lawyers, employers, and innovators.”– Pramila Jayapal
“Financial inclusion helps lift people out of poverty and can help speed economic development. It can draw more women into the mainstream of economic activity, harnessing their contributions to society.”– Sri Mulyani Indrawati
“Expanding access to decent work opportunities is the most effective way to increase labor-market participation, lift people out of poverty, reduce inequality, and drive economic growth. It should be at the center of policymaking. The alternative is a dog-eat-dog world in which too many will feel left out.”– Guy Ryder
“All over the world, children facing the challenges of poverty attend schools that aren’t designed to meet their extra needs; across country lines, the lives of marginalized kids look far more similar than they do different.”– Wendy Kopp
“I want to eradicate poverty. I think that there’s a tremendous passion for that inside the World Bank.”– Jim Yong Kim
“We do not wish to impoverish the environment any further, and yet we cannot for a moment forget the grim poverty of large numbers of people. Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?”– Indira Gandhi
“If we take a hard look at what poverty is, its nature, it’s not pretty – it’s full of trauma. And we’re able to accept trauma with certain groups, like with soldiers, for instance – we understand that they face trauma and that trauma can be connected to things like depression or acts of violence later on in life.”– Matthew Desmond
“When you grow up in poverty, suffer from abuse, live in a violent neighborhood, come from a broken home, lack positive role models, are told you’ll never amount to anything, etc, the challenges are enormous.”– Christine Tsai
“We develop the kind of citizens we deserve. If a large number of our children grow up into frustration and poverty, we must expect to pay the price.”– Robert Kennedy
“When I was confronted with just the bare facts of poverty and inequality in America, it always disturbed and confused me.”– Matthew Desmond
“It doesn’t matter what color you are. Poverty is poverty. Inmates come from all walks of life. We have to make sure we look out for these people and give them a chance.”– David Fizdale
“The burden of poverty isn’t just that you don’t always have the things you need, it’s the feeling of being embarrassed every day of your life, and you’d do anything to lift that burden.”– Jay-Z
“Helping people boost themselves out of poverty is the best way to make a lasting positive difference in a person’s life.”– Naveen Jain
“The main environmental challenge of the 21st century is poverty. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, it’s hard to consider the environment 100 years down the line.”– Bjorn Lomborg
“Anticipate charity by preventing poverty.”– Maimonides
“It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.”– William J. Clinton
“Left unchecked, climate change risks not only making the poorest poorer, but pulling the emerging middle classes back into poverty, too.”– Paul Polman
“I feel, in 2015, when we see human beings and children dying to cross the ocean, trying to find safety, something more must be done to help them because refugees are just like me and you.”– Alek Wek
“I realize that I’m in the top one percent of the world. I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve seen immense poverty in the world, and I can’t live with everything I’ve had and be comfortable with everything I have unless I do something for the rest of the world.”– Andie MacDowell
“The rewards for biotechnology are tremendous – to solve disease, eliminate poverty, age gracefully. It sounds so much cooler than Facebook.”– George M. Church
“To overcome poverty and the flaws of the economic crisis in our society, we need to envision our social life. We have to free our mind, imagine what has never happened before and write social fiction. We need to imagine things to make them happen. If you don’t imagine, it will never happen.”– Muhammad Yunus
“Health care is a design problem. Dependence on foreign oil is a design problem. To some extent, poverty is a design problem. We need design thinkers to solve those problems, and most people who are in positions of political power are not design thinkers, to put it mildly.”– Daniel H. Pink
“Helping convene global stakeholders to establish a set of measurable, actionable and consensus-built goals focused on extreme poverty is invaluable.”– Bill Gates
“When work is not underpinned by social protection, people risk falling into poverty traps.”– Sharan Burrow
“The belief that the world is getting worse, that we can’t solve extreme poverty and disease, isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful.”– Bill Gates
“Through my studies, I became increasingly disillusioned with the international aid system. I think we systematically deny poor people the chance to engage as equals in the global economic order. At best, we give them handouts or tiny loans and hope they will suffer a bit less from extreme poverty. We don’t view them as equals.”– Leila Janah
“The best way to end poverty is to simply give people work, which isn’t considered ‘sexy’ among donors who want to fund a preschool or cure a disease.”– Leila Janah
“I utterly reject the view that the Third World is doomed to poverty and starvation. Not only is this wrong, I think this attitude verges on the immoral, like thinking that slavery is an unalterable facet of the human condition so why bother doing anything about it?”– Alex Tabarrok
“Poverty is everyone’s problem. It cuts across any line you can name: age, race, social, geographic or religious. Whether you are black or white; rich, middle-class or poor, we are ALL touched by poverty.”– Kathleen Blanco
“People who work full-time in America should not have to live in poverty – simple as that. Too many jobs don’t pay enough to get by, let alone get ahead. Too many people are finding the rungs on the ladder of opportunity further and further apart.”– Tom Perez
“I didn’t have any personal goals when I came, but after being in politics – after seeing people, their difficulties, their wants – I think our goal has to be to eliminate poverty from India.”– Rajiv Gandhi
“Richness in the world is a result of other people’s poverty. We should begin to shorten the abyss between haves and have-nots.”– Eduardo Galeano
“We will not be intimidated or pushed off the world stage by people who do not like what we stand for, and that is, freedom, democracy and the fight against disease, poverty and terrorism.”– Madeleine Albright
“Runaway climate change would condemn millions to a life of poverty and cause us to fail to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. This is not an acceptable outcome.”– Paul Polman
“Stark inequality, poverty, and unemployment are driving increased social unrest and, consequently, social and economic risk. Environmental deterioration may well intensify social inequality.”– Sharan Burrow
“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”– Mother Teresa
“We know we cannot achieve our twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity without ending poverty and creating equality for women and girls.”– Sri Mulyani Indrawati
“Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn’t.”– Jeff Bridges
“If poverty were a man, I would have slain him.”– Ali ibn Abi Talib
“Poverty of course is no disgrace, but it is damned annoying.”– William Pitt
“You can’t raise the aspirations of a child and then leave them hanging. Poverty can’t be solved by a project. It’s solved by a relationship, collaboration.”– Ann Cotton
“Can we really believe that we are living a good life, an ethically decent life if we don’t do anything serious to help reduce poverty around the world and help save the lives of children or adults who are likely to die if we don’t increase the amount of aid we are giving.”– Peter Singer
“I don’t want to be an apologist for poverty, but I can’t stand waste, useless spending, wasted energy and having to live squandering stuff.”– Jose Mujica