Poverty is Cyclical: Building Resilience Against Generational Poverty

A Cycle of Poverty

Generational poverty is a vicious cycle that impacts families for multiple generations. According to the Georgia Center for Opportunity, “intergenerational poverty (IGP) is described as poverty that persists from one generation to the next . . . it disproportionately impacts minority and poor communities.” The social support systems our society relies are built to address situational poverty (for example, creating jobs or rent assistance). These support efforts are not created to build resilience against generational poverty. This creates a trap where families can’t break past the challenges that keep them in poverty.

Georgia currently has a poverty rate of 13.3%, with 8% of people experiencing extreme poverty ($2 per person per day or less). Of these people experiencing poverty, 19% are children. Families are also increasingly challenged with low or under-employment, with 31.9% of working families under 200% of the poverty line. More than a quarter of the jobs in Georgia are are minimum wage. All of these factors contribute to the cycle of poverty that is generational, not situational.

Real-Life Experiences

There are many challenges that contribute to this cycle. These challenges may include low-paying jobs, job scarcity, poor school options, and limited access to safe and healthy foods for nourishment and growth. When a parent is is stressed about finances, we see tangible results, like less food on the table or inadequate childcare. But the emotional toll is also high. Limited income and opportunity leads to stress at home. And unfortunately, this affects both adults and children who take on additional emotional and mental load.

When children experience this level of stress at home, their grades falter, ultimately leading to limited educational or job opportunities. Without a solid career path, financial stability and wealth generation are incredibly limited. And the child, now an adult, ends up in the same stress cycle as their caregivers. This starts the cycle all over again. The absolute mountain of poverty is too much for the generation to climb. And now they are stuck with either fighting their way out for their children or passing this generational trauma along.

How to Build Resilience Against Generational Poverty

As people called to serve our neighbors, it is important to recognize the difference between supporting people experiencing situational poverty (job loss, medical challenges, transportation instability) and those who need a different approach due to the long-lasting nature of generational poverty. It can be so tempting for us to want to step in and “fix” these issues, but this is not a sustainable way to address the cycle of poverty. Rather, we must focus on ways to support people in their own journey to sustainability. How can we increase educational opportunities and support people in their efforts to complete them? How do we provide social and emotional learning for both children and adults? In what ways can we support people in “fixing” their own challenges rather than swooping in to “save” them? This effort might feel empowering to us, but actually removes power from the very people we are seeking to support.
In recent years, ECF has funded several organizations whose work tackles specific challenges that people are faced with when they experience generational poverty. Efforts by organizations such as Agape Youth and Family Center, Emmaus House, North Fulton Community Charities, and Wonderful Days Preschool contribute to supporting people who are on the journey to reverse the cycle of poverty in their own families. We are grateful to contribute towards this work of ending generational poverty. With your continued support, we can break the cycles that impact so many.

Following Christ’s example and the tradition of The Episcopal Church, we partner with Episcopal communities in the Diocese of Atlanta by providing funding, leadership, and resources to enable Episcopalians to lift up people facing poverty and oppression and to achieve significant, long-lasting change in our communities.

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