A persistent feature of societies, poverty is a long-term economic state of need with difficult social consequences.

In Europe the Church was the first organization to combat poverty, doing so with varying resolve following the reign of Charlemagne; English Poor Laws (1639) were the first modern state response to the escallating poverty that defined urbanisation and the industrial revolution.

Since then poverty has become seen as an effect of social exclusion, and a source of governmental embarassment in developed states. One of the goals of European Union structural funding is the eradication of poverty, though the EU has been known to blame poverty on bohemian lifestyles and individual choice.

In developed parts of the world poverty most often affects:

In these areas poverty tends to increase crime, decrease property value, and perpetuate itself.

Many large NGOs are also interested in eliminating poverty, especially in under-developed states where poor or non-existant infrastructure creates horrific living conditions.