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Steven Malanga

This is a broad question and it changes from society to society. In the United States, where you continue to have opportunity, it’s very different from a third world country where there is a lack of opportunities.

Generally, in the United States, it has been said that there are three things which a person can do to almost guarantee that poverty will be avoided: graduating from high school, marrying, and not becoming a single parent by having a child if not married. The vast majority of people who follow those three prescripts, something like 98.8%, don’t wind up in poverty in the United States. So although there are select people who are victims of circumstance, these factors are really about personal choices.

Having said this, the definition of poverty in the United States is not the definition of poverty in countries where people’s rights are constrained and opportunity is limited because their governments don’t offer proper rights, basic freedoms, or a free education system where people are universally allowed to attend grammar school and high school.

Ultimately there’s a collective responsibility on the part of government to foster a system which creates opportunities and there’s a personal responsibility on the part of the individual to take those opportunities.

Contributing editor of City Journal and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Steven Malanga