Over the past few decades, the world has made great strides in the fight against poverty.

According to the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declined from nearly 1.9 billion in 1990 to roughly 650 million in 2018. This is an incredible achievement, and it is due in large part to economic growth in developing countries.

However, there is still much work to be done.

Based on 2017 numbers from the World Bank, a little bit less than 700 million people globally were living on less than $2.15 a day, which is the new international poverty line as of fall 2022. And while this number has declined since 1990, it is still far too high.

In the United States, the official poverty rate was 11.4 percent in 2020. (The pre-pandemic rate, in 2019, was 10.5 percent.) The good news is that with 2020 being the exception, we've seen an annual decline in U.S. poverty rates five years in a row.) However, there are still about 37 million people living in poverty in the United States.

There are many causes of poverty, including conflict, disease, environmental degradation, and lack of access to education, food, and financial services.

But with continued effort and cooperation, it is possible to further reduce the number of people living in poverty and create a more just and equitable world for all.

In this article we've collected the best quotes from those leading the fight against poverty, working to create solutions that help support the global poor. And our hope is that after reading this article, you'll feel inspired to get involved and take action too.

Read the most powerful poverty quotes from leaders & activists leading change:

Famous Quotes

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”
— Nelson Mandela

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” — Nelson Mandela

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”  
Bryan Stevenson, social justice activist

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”  — Bryan Stevenson, social justice activist

“Where you live should not determine whether you live, or whether you die.”
Bono, lead singer of U2 and founder of (RED) and ONE

“Where you live should not determine whether you live, or whether you die.” — Bono

“I believe in a world of justice and human rights for all. A world where girls can grow up free of fear of abuse. A world where women are treated with the respect and dignity that is their right. A world where poverty is not acceptable. My dear young friends, you can make this your world.”
— Ban Ki-moon

“I believe in a world of justice and human rights for all. A world where girls can grow up free of fear of abuse. A world where women are treated with the respect and dignity that is their right. A world where poverty is not acceptable. My dear young friends, you can make this your world.” — Ban Ki-moon

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”
— Muhammad Ali

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.” — Muhammad Ali

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
— Confucius

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.” — Confucius‍

“Surely it is impossible for us, as normal human beings, to watch children starve to death without making an effort to save them.”
— Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children

“Surely it is impossible for us, as normal human beings, to watch children starve to death without making an effort to save them.” — Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children

“In this increasingly interconnected world, we must understand that what happens to poor people is never divorced from the actions of the powerful. Certainly, people who define themselves as poor may control their own destinies to some extent. But control of lives is related to control of land, systems of production, and the formal political and legal structures in which lives are enmeshed. With time, both wealth and control have become increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. The opposite trend is desired by those working for social justice.”
Paul Farmer

Related: The best quotes about world hunger and feeding the poor

On Injustice

“Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.”
— Jacques Diouf

“Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” — Jacques Diouf

"No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise."
— Marian Anderson

“I recognize that globalization has helped many people rise out of poverty, but it has also damned many others to starve to death. It is true that global wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities have also grown and new poverty arisen.”
— Pope Francis

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

On Solutions

“Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn't.”
— Jeff Bridges

“Poverty is a very complicated issue, but feeding a child isn't.” — Jeff Bridges‍

“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
— Mother Teresa

“These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.”
— Pope Francis

“This is the first generation in all of recorded history that can do something about the scourge of poverty. We have the means to do it. We can banish hunger from the face of the earth.”
— Hubert Humphrey

“This is the first generation in all of recorded history that can do something about the scourge of poverty. We have the means to do it. We can banish hunger from the face of the earth.” — Hubert Humphrey

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth… these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”
— Ban Ki-moon

“If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community.”
— President Barack Obama

“If poverty is a disease that infects the entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community.” — President Barack Obama

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
— Mother Teresa

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is enough.”
— Dr. Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is enough.” — Dr. Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International

Related: The best quotes about activism from leading activists

On Supporting Poor Children

“There are those who believe justice and dignity are reserved only for some people. Those who believe it should be a challenge to vote or even walk down the street. The Supreme Court has now struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act. Young men have died in police custody. And the growing heel of poverty has worn down harder on children of color.”
— Senator Elizabeth Warren

“35 million people in the U.S. are hungry or don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and 13 million of them are children. If another country were doing this to our children, we’d be at war.”
— Jeff Bridges

“Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.”
— Grace Abbott

From World Leaders

“In this great country of ours, it is inexcusable that so many children grow up in poverty and despair. The well-being of our children must be the national priority and the responsibility of every individual.”
— Jimmy Carter

“In this great country of ours, it is inexcusable that so many children grow up in poverty and despair. The well-being of our children must be the national priority and the responsibility of every individual.” — Jimmy Carter‍

“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere.”
— Kofi Annan

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
— Nelson Mandela

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” — Nelson Mandela

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
— John F. Kennedy

Muhammad Yunus Quotes

Muhammad Yunus is a social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and humanitarian leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in pioneering the concept of microcredit. He is also the founder of Grameen Bank, a leading microfinance institution. In addition to his work in microfinance, Yunus has been active in promoting social business ventures and corporate responsibility. He is an advocate for global poverty alleviation and has helped to develop several innovative initiatives to address poverty and social injustice. His work has helped to empower millions of people by providing them with access to financial services.

“Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society.”
— Muhammad Yunus

“Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society.” — Muhammad Yunus‍

“If we want to help poor people out, one way to do that is to help them explore and use their own capability. Human being is full of capacity full of capability, is a wonderful creation. But many people never get a chance to explore that, never, no that she nor he has that”
— Muhammad Yunus

“If you go out into the real world, you cannot miss seeing that the poor are poor not because they are untrained or illiterate but because they cannot retain the returns of their labor. They have no control over capital, and it is the ability to control capital that gives people the power to rise out of poverty.”
— Muhammad Yunus

“I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social systems that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.”
— Muhammad Yunus

“I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social systems that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.” — Muhammad Yunus

“People... were poor not because they were stupid or lazy. They worked all day long, doing complex physical tasks. They were poor because the financial institution in the country did not help them widen their economic base.”
— Muhammad Yunus

“One day our grandchildren will go to museums to see what poverty was like.”
— Muhammad Yunus

“One day our grandchildren will go to museums to see what poverty was like.” — Muhammad Yunus

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society — how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.”
— Muhammad Yunus

On Faith As Motivation to Help People Who Are Poor

“The Bible insists that the best test of a nation's righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.”
— Jim Wallis

“The Bible insists that the best test of a nation's righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.” — Jim Wallis

“There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

“To me, a faith in Jesus Christ that is not aligned with the poor...it’s nothing.”
Bono, lead singer of U2 and founder of (RED) and ONE

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.”
― Stephen Colbert

“To live with Jesus is to live with the poor. To live with the poor is to live with Jesus.”
— Jean Vanier

“Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread; and by our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen.”
— Mother Teresa

More Thoughts on Poverty

“Peace is not only the absence of war; as long as there is poverty, racism, segregation and exclusion we could hardly reach a world of peace.”
— Rigoberta Menchú Tum

“Peace is not only the absence of war; as long as there is poverty, racism, segregation and exclusion we could hardly reach a world of peace.” — Rigoberta Menchú Tum

“Poverty is not only about income poverty, it is about the deprivation of economic and social rights, insecurity, discrimination, exclusion and powerlessness. That is why human rights must not be ignored but given even greater prominence in times of economic crisis.”
— Irene Khan

“If I define my neighbor as the one I must go out to look for, on the highways and byways, in the factories and slums, on the farms and in the mines — then my world changes. This is what is happening with the 'option for the poor, for in the gospel it is the poor person who is the neighbor par excellence.
But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity.
Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.”

— Gustavo Gutiérrez

“Just because a child’s parents are poor or uneducated is no reason to deprive the child of basic human rights to health care, education and proper nutrition.”
— Marian Wright Edelman

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you don’t fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.”
— Fred Hampton

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.”
— Barbara Bush, former First Lady

“If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow to their capabilities.” — Barbara Bush, former First Lady

“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.”
— Aristotle, Greek philosopher

“It is a common condition of being poor… you are always afraid that the good things in your life are temporary, that someone can take them away, because you have no power beyond your own brute strength to stop them.”
— Rick Bragg

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.”
— Plutarch, Greek historian

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” — Plutarch, Greek historian

“History is written by the rich, and so the poor get blamed for everything.”
— Jeffrey D. Sachs

“Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”
— James Baldwin