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poverty trap

Definition of Poverty Trap

(noun) A scenario created when low-income individuals or families living in poverty, lose welfare or tax benefits when they secure employment or a higher salary, resulting in an overall worse economic condition because of the loss of their benefits.

Example of Poverty Trap

  • John had a full-time job in a developing industry. John was not able to afford childcare for his two pre-school children while he was at work. John was forced to switch to part-time employment that allowed him to care for his children with additional help from welfare. Because John had to leave his full-time job he loses benefits beyond pay such as future advancement opportunities, insurance, and a pension.

Poverty Trap Pronunciation

Usage Notes

  • Plural: poverty traps
  • The poverty trap provides a disincentive for an individual to work or improve their socioeconomic status.

Additional Information

Related Terms


Cite the Definition of Poverty Trap

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “poverty trap.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved August 20, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/poverty-trap/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

poverty trap. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/poverty-trap/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “poverty trap.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed August 20, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/poverty-trap/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“poverty trap.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 20 Aug. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/poverty-trap/>.