Poverty in Colombia

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Colombia has some of the worst poverty in Latin America. The government and other organizations are working to alleviate 35% of the population that lives in poverty and faces serious problems in sanitation and finding employment. In 2012 the UN praised Ecuador for accomadating 55,000 refugees from Colombia who suffered from discrimination and poverty. Colombia also has 4 million internally displaced people, mostly from continuing unrest in guerrilla conflicts.[1]


Class Structure

Colombia has a three class system with a lower, middle, and upper class. The upper class which is 20 percent of the population accounts for approximately 80 percent of GDP. This upper class is predominantly of European ancestry, therefore white skinned people enjoy a feeling of status in Colombian society. This stratification is caste since people do not generally leave their class, especially if they are non-white and wish to become upper class. Mestizos and mulattoes comprise the middle class while blacks and Indians populate the lower class.[2]

(edit)Among the most relevant topics in Colombia is its drug culture. Colombia has become synonymous with cocaine deportation. The United States among countries, has been the main destination of Colombia drug exportation and consequently the American government has experienced significant drug related problems as a result of the Colombian drug connection.The drug trade in this country has led to not only tremendous guerrilla conflict but also served as the main reason for such heightened levels of cocaine usage and trafficking in and around this country. Due to this drug trafficking deaths have piled up, parents have been become addicts and children have grown up without any sense of adequate parenting. Drugs have ruined families and consequently forced many of these families into times of poverty and despair-when Colombia is in question it imperative that drugs and the trafficking of them be discussed.[3]

Symbols of Social Class

White skin is associated with European ancestry and specifically Spanish ancestry. White people are assumed to have a wealthy background in Colombian society. Clothing styles in the middle and upper class is very similar to the United States. Conservative suits are preferred by white, mestizo, and mullato men and women. Men wear loose fitting pants and women wear loose fitting skirts. All three classes in the interior speak a grammatically correct form of Spanish. People from the coast speak at a more rapid and informal pace. Similar to their language, people from the interior are formal in social interactions, people from the coast tend to be carefree.[2]

Rural Poverty

For the last 40 years armed conflict has been the cause of social unrest and specifically the persistence of rural poverty. Unequal distribution of wealth is common in rural areas where rich landowners control a vast majority of the available property. Armed conflict has forcibly displaced millions of Colombians and many Colombians are forced into slums where housing is scarce. Over the past 15 years, 2 million hectares of land belonging to small farmers and indigenous communities have been illegally occupied. Currently 1.3 million farmers are landless and must work for larger farms as general laborers.[4]


Welfare services began in the 1930s. Social security programs include health and maternity benefits, workers’ compensation, and allowances for those unable to work. Housing is in short supply which has caused overcrowding in cities and the emergence of large slums. The Housing Institute seeks to solve this problem with multiple projects for rural and urban populations. The Ministry of Public Health attempts to address health concerns in communites on an independent basis. Projects include the construction of systems to supply drinking water, education on basic sanitation, home maintenance, balanced diet, and personal cleanliness. And the control of industries whose operations might be hazardous to health.[5]

Non-governmental organizations have been involved in agricultural, educational, and health programs. With the backing of community leaders organizations such as the Magdalena Medio Project have influenced public affairs. Among the priorities of NGOs are land reform projects to redistribute farmland in favor of family farming, human capital development in education to give communities control over local education, and public sector efficiency. Groups such as the Pasto Education Project and the Rural Education Project have advocated better funded public schools and teacher training.[2]

Statistics on the Economy and Poverty

  • Poverty headcount at national poverty line 37.2%.
  • Unemployment rate 11.6%.
  • Percentage of urban population with access to improved facilities 82%.
  • Adult literacy rate 93%.
  • GNI per capita $5,510.
  • About 35% of the population is in poverty and 17% are in extreme poverty.[6][7]
  • Gini coefficient .560.[8]
  • Fertility rate: 2.12 children per woman.
  • GDP real growth rate 5.7%.[9]
  • Exchange rate (annual average, local per US$): 2319.4[10]


  1. http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/23494-un-praises-ecuador-for-hosting-colombian-refugees.html
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Colombia.html
  3. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/drugs/business/inside/colombian.html
  4. http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/web/guest/country/home/tags/colombia
  5. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/126016/Colombia/25363/Welfare-and-health
  6. http://www.dane.gov.co/files/noticias/MESEP_2009.pdf
  7. http://data.worldbank.org/country/colombia
  8. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html
  9. http://globaledge.msu.edu/Countries/Colombia/statistics
  10. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTCOLOMBIA/Resources/Colombia_glance.pdf
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