History Buff: How Education Has Drastically Improved Poverty Over Time


The numbers and facts do not lie: education is a significant component in reducing poverty. Over the last two hundred years, societies around the globe have taken to viewing and providing education as a necessity for their populaces, and seen a drastic reduction in poverty as a result. New research continues to support the currently existing data that the more educated people are, the higher their individual income and contributions to society. While historical data is not always available to us, researchers have been able to piece together information regarding this topic.

Education Has Increased Income

Its fact that in every single country that has data available, income directly correlated with how many years of education an individual had. While it’s difficult to prove causality without a doubt, because there are always other factors, the evidence is simply overwhelming. The world GDP has skyrocketed in the last one hundred years, and as a result, poverty levels have gone down significantly and rapidly. There is still a lot of work to do, but a lot of progress has been made.

Education Has Increased Health

Human health prospects, especially for women and girls, see great increases in educated populations vs. non-educated populations. In the 1800s, for example, humans did not fully understand where disease came from. Once those discoveries were made and people began learning about and acting on them, incidents of preventable disease went down, which also helped prevent poverty. In regions of the world today where superstition supplants medical science, there are correspondingly higher incidences of disease and poor health choices. Education also helps prevent unwanted pregnancies, which themselves can force women and families to live lives of poverty they might otherwise have had a chance of escaping.

Education Keeps People From Being Taken Advantage Of

Before the last two to three hundred years, global society was overwhelmingly agricultural and illiterate. Of the world’s population, only roughly ten percent were literate in 1800. Now, that figure is flipped, with only about 15% illiteracy worldwide. With the increase in education and the literacy rate, people are far less likely to be taken advantage of in deals, agreements and contracts. Being taken advantage of by either landlords or corporations can easily lead to poverty, or at least the inability to achieve one’s full potential, both historically and presently.

It’s simply indisputable that education, like a degree in history, helps prevent poverty both then and now. No country in the world has achieved rapid and consistent economic growth without at least 40 percent of its adult population being literate. And with drastic increases in education corresponding with drastic decreases in poverty worldwide, it’s easy to see the connection.


Emma Sturgis | Guest Blogger at JLV College Counseling

Emma is a freelance writer currently living in Boston, MA. She writes most often on education and business. To see more from Emma, say hi on Twitter @EmmaSturgis2



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