Poverty is a social problem relevant to many fields and academic disciplines, so it is not surprising that research assignments frequently require students to research poverty and ways to alleviate it. You can write about the root causes of poverty as a lead-in to suggesting specific strategies for alleviating poverty. You can also describe different approaches that have been used to address poverty, such as policy initiatives, neighborhood efforts and improvements in the educational system.

Causes of Poverty

Researching causes of poverty can help a student identify ways to alleviate it. Consider some of the historic and current causes of poverty. Depending on the field, you may want to look at issues of discrimination, undereducation or economic or social policies. Once you identify a specific cause, research the history of that particular issue, such as the history of racial discrimination as a cause for poverty in an ethnic group. Also research recommendations that have been made by experts in the field to address these root causes.

Federal Policy Initiatives

Students can research topic previous and current federal programs aimed at reducing or eliminating poverty. From the Great Society (a series of social programs initiated by President Johnson) to welfare reform initiatives in the 1990s, national policy has attempted to reduce poverty, particularly in urban environments. Currently, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides benefits for families in poverty. Additional programs, such as Medicaid and free and reduced-price meals programs in schools, attempt to offset problems caused by poverty through offering supplemental assistance with healthcare and nutrition.

Neighborhood Revitalization and Investment

You can also research initiatives to combat poverty at the neighborhood level. To begin researching this topic, think about the local organizations in your community that have invested in poorer neighborhoods, including small businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and churches or other religious organizations. Often, community centers will open locations in neighborhoods with significant poverty and will make services available to residents. Small businesses may open in poor neighborhoods or invest in the community by sponsoring events or making donations. Each of these efforts can also contribute to alleviating poverty by bringing new resources into the community and increasing awareness of poverty.


Consider researching effective educational methods for breaking the cycle of poverty and approaches proven to work in inner-city schools. Also research the achievements of students in poverty at specific schools or school districts. Each state maintains its own database that presents students' achievements according to the percentage in poverty. The National Center for Education Statistics also has databases and statistical information on students in poverty and educational achievement.

Related Articles