“Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."

— Nelson Mandela 

“Poverty is not created by poor people. It is produced by our failure to create institutions to support human capabilities.”

— Muhammad Yunus 


Poverty is a multi-faceted, complex and systemic issue that has evolved over centuries and generations of families. Yet the idea still persists that poverty is based solely on an individual’s choices – that people are lazy, don’t want to work hard, take advantage of government handouts and just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. This is why it’s so important to understand the history of how we as a country got to this point – more than 37 million people living in poverty – and how our systems of government, economy, healthcare, education and workforce contribute to perpetuating that experience and make breaking the cycle of poverty so incredibly difficult. 


Learn how the rate of incarceration is linked to the effects of poverty such as homelessness, drug use, drug crimes, gaps in child support payments, lack of health insurance and more: “Incarceration and Poverty in the United States.”  

The institution of marriage has long been promoted in federal programs and cultural influence as an anti-poverty solution, and yet The Conversation reports that “Marriage is Not as Effective an Anti-Poverty Strategy as You’ve Been Led to Believe.”

Homeownership is a key resource for financial stability and growth in the United States. “Systemic Inequality: Displacement, Exclusion, and Segregation” offers historic insights into the ways government policies on homeownership have undermined wealth building and caused generational poverty in communities of color.


Racial Segregation and Concentrated Poverty: The History of Housing in Black America,” from The Root, sheds light on historical racism in housing policies that have created roadblocks to escaping poor segregated housing environments for individuals and families in poverty. (6 minutes) 

Reflections from a Lifetime Fighting to End Child Poverty,” a TED Talk by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund and activist with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., offers insights into anti-poverty advocacy efforts. (15 minutes) 

Inside an Indian Reservation Reeling from Poverty and the Pandemic” visits the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, where tribe members have experienced generations of oppression. Half of them live below the poverty line and go without running water, and the life expectancy for Lakota men is 47 years. (8 minutes) 


This NPR Marketplace story, “How the Welfare-to-Work System was Built on Racial Inequity,” highlights the discriminatory origins of welfare work requirements. (4 minutes) 

This Civics 101 podcast on welfare provides facts about the history and potential future of welfare. (15 minutes)  

The Poverty Podcast explains extreme global poverty from the World Bank Prosperity Report and the impact of COVID-19 on calculating statistics in “Reversals of Fortune.” (9 minutes)


Today’s resources help bring our Connecticut history alive through visits to local cultural centers, art museums and historical sites. Find and visit one near you.

Explore the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History in Hartford for a wide variety of talks and exhibits celebrating Lunar New Year and the AAPI community, Black antebellum communities, Connecticut's history with the Amistad and more.  

Check out the New London Black Heritage Trail, which explores three centuries of Black struggle and triumph and tell the story of Black lives and the institutions built to address physical, social and spiritual needs due to slavery, the Great Migration and the fight for civil rights.  

Visit the “Shining Light on Truth: New Haven, Yale and Slavery Exhibit” at the New Haven Museum, which shares stories of Black New Haven, Black students and Yale Alumni, and how they connect to economy and trade, Black churches and schools, the Black college proposal and other milestones in Black history. 

Want to refer back to an earlier Equity Challenge email in this series? Please visit this link.

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