I wrote in the past about the moral rot of nations and how that causes them to fall. What then causes poverty? I believe the greatest contributing factor to poverty is lawlessness. That is, the failure of the rule of law and the increasing lawless activities of a population. As I look at countries that have a huge poverty rates I see countries where either there is no justice or crime is rampant (or both). For example, how can people be confident that if they are productive it will not be taken away by criminals or worse, the actions of their government? Why start a business if you are not sure you will be able to keep the profits (or even make one at all). Why plant a field if you are not sure that you can take the crop to market and make a profit? In a country filled with lawlessness and injustice basic economic activity can't take place. No one can better themselves because however they better their lives, it will be taken in one way or another.
How do you fix a lawless situation? The only way is by imposing the rule of law, but you need a lawful entity to do that. You need a lawful law enforcement mechanism and government, which usually does not exist in poverty stricken nations. Maybe what citizens could do is start with enforcing the rule of law in their own neighborhoods and once that is established, then expanding the rule of law to other areas. Is that easy? Absolutely not, and that is why poverty is so persistent. That is also why aid does not seem to help. If you supply aid to a lawless nation it just gets stolen or wasted. It rarely gets to those who need it.
The other issue involved is what happens if the population at large is lawless? Then you have chaos and and there is nothing that can be done. I think this is what concerns me most about the U.S. It is increasingly becoming lawless. There is more and more corruption. The is more and more failure of justice. There is more lawlessness among the population. If the lawlessness persists then we can expect poverty and a host of other social ills to increase. God help us then.