One source of poverty often overlooked is the manner in which the poor choose to spend their money. Many, particularly men, divert limited funds to buy beer, prostitutes, tobacco and other nonessential items, rather then invest in the education of their children.
The consequence of these poor financial decisions is that many children never receive the education they deserve, not due to lack of access, but because of unpaid tuition fees. Children are forced to drop out, repeat grades, or suffer expulsion, while their fathers hit the village bars for a few liters of beer.
These priorities are not limited to the developing world. The average American spends approximately 7 percent of their income on entertainment, alcohol, and tobacco, while spending only 1.9 percent on education, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the U.S Department of Labor. Though everyone, including the poor, deserve to engage in entertainment and the purchase of pleasure items, the lower a family’s income gets, the more devastating its effects on a families overall well-being become.
Investing more in education could be exactly what is needed to lift poor families and future generations out of poverty. Around the world, approximately 103.5 million primary school age children are not enrolled in school, with about 57 percent of these education deprived children being girls. The lack of an education, or an insufficient one, leads to fewer choices and opportunities later in life. Children who receive a well rounded education are provided with the skills to prevent disease, address issues of maternal health, and navigate the world efficiently with skills that will serve them their entire lives.
If families could redirect even a slight percentage of the money spent on tobacco or alcohol, and this applies to all families around the world, their situations could be transformed dramatically, says New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof. In addition, Kristof advocates that women take on greater responsibility for the household budget, as they have consistently been found to be more financially responsible than men and more apt to allocate funds towards family needs, rather then individual ones. Female monetary empowerment has long been advocated for, but day by day, the case grows stronger.
To hear Kristof’s thoughts on this somewhat controversial and overlooked subject, check out the video below.