Poverty

Feb. 26th, 2009 01:26 pm
mirrorshard: (Default)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
I'm interested in what you think poverty means. Because of who I am (and, frankly, who you are) this is mostly about poverty in the context of rich countries. Warning: may be triggering for some.


[Poll #1355903]

Date: 2009-02-26 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emperor.livejournal.com
I think poverty can contribute to a lot of those things, but I think "cause" is too strong and too simplistic.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
You're quite right, of course; I should have clarified that. For "cause", read "contribute significantly to".

Date: 2009-02-26 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
Ah good, I interpreted it correctly then. :-)

Date: 2009-02-26 01:43 pm (UTC)
ext_6483: drawing of a golden hare in front of a silver moon (Default)
From: [identity profile] sunlightdances.livejournal.com
I hadn't realised quite how strong my feelings were about my own levels of income until I saw that other people had checked the boxes that apply to me, and I felt quite hurt and very defensive. This isn't really something I'd thought about before, so thank you. I'll be pondering this for quite a while.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
You're welcome; I'm looking forward to seeing how it pans out overall.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I think a lot of it depends on whether you're struggling or not, and what your needs are. Some people can thrive quite happily on a surprisingly low income. If you're living on disability benefits, the chances are high that the money won't be enough to meet your needs. How many people you may need to support, especially including children, will also make a difference. I think there's a strong poor = unhappy assumption, so if you're on a relatively low income but completely content and not having any trouble with your finances, you are less likely to think of yourself as poor.

Date: 2009-02-26 02:28 pm (UTC)
ext_6483: drawing of a golden hare in front of a silver moon (Default)
From: [identity profile] sunlightdances.livejournal.com
If you're living on disability benefits, the chances are high that the money won't be enough to meet your needs.
Goodness, really? I find my needs totally met by my disability benefits.

if you're on a relatively low income but completely content and not having any trouble with your finances, you are less likely to think of yourself as poor.
Absolutely. I can live contentedly and fully with no financial problems, so I don't consider myself poor.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
It involves even more hoop-jumping, and even more of a lottery, than normal benefits, and it depends a lot on what you're suffering from and where you live. I know people with really severe chronic illnesses who haven't been able to get any at all.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:14 pm (UTC)
ext_6483: drawing of a golden hare in front of a silver moon (Default)
From: [identity profile] sunlightdances.livejournal.com
Goodness, how naive of me. Mine took six months to get on, which was hell at the time, but since then there have been no problems. I have supportive doctors, and conditions that are recognised, and I forget how essential that is.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
It's always said that a very high proportion of people with disabilities are living in poverty, some say the majority.

The site may be a bit out of date, but Benefits Now (http://www.benefitsnow.co.uk/decisions/dladecision.asp) cites Higher Rate Care of Disability Living Allowance as £67 per week. There are three rates for the care component (and two for the mobility component), and in theory you qualify for higher rate care by needing frequent care throughout the day and night. In practice, you can be lucky to get lower rate care (£17/week) if your care needs are at that level, and I suspect that Higher Rate Care is only given out to people who need 24-hour care or near as damnit. Round here, it costs £13 per hour to get a carer from an agency.

Social Services are meant to provide necessary care, and provide it free of charge for people on a very low income, but in practice they rarely do anything of the sort. Their budget is extremely limited and their standards of living horrifyingly low. Being able to eat daily, or wash more than once a fortnight, is not something they consider necessary.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildeabandon.livejournal.com
I answered the first question from a fairly distant perspective. On some level I would feel poor if my income were significantly less than £40,000, because I'd have to change my lifestyle, but I'm entirely aware that there is no real sense in which that would count as poor.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:45 pm (UTC)
ext_3375: Banded Tussock (Default)
From: [identity profile] hairyears.livejournal.com
In many countries, poverty is definitely and demonstrably caused by an economic overclass 'hogging all the money' - most often by blocking measures in education and public works which would raise their taxes, and by funding political regimes that entrench poverty by deliberate mismanagement of the economy and oppressive measures that suppress the emergence of a free and equitably-negotiated labour market.

However, this is not universally true, and I am very cautious when I see such cases alluded to: all too often, this forms part of a class-war polemic asserting that 'The Rich' are the cause of poverty, in and of themselves, and that a policy of targeted confiscation will create an egalitarian utopia.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I answered it more as "the rich are hogging all the money" *or* "the rich hogged all the money in the past and their descendents, or at least their country's economy, still have/has it".

As far as I am concerned, one of the main reasons that I am not horribly badly off is because Britain became a very rich country in the 18th and 19th centuries, and with it was able to provide things for its citizens like state education and a NHS in the 20th. Some of the reasons why Britain became such a rich country could I think quite easily be described as "hogging". Through various means, this process contributed to the moderately comfortable situation in which I at present exist. I am not rich relative to others in this country, but I am not poor either, and I think that globally I count as at least pretty darn well off.

Also, in the present day, there are international trade laws that favour countries which are already rich. This also benefits me. As does the fact that my husband had a fairly privileged background even for a UK citizen, which is one reason why he now has a well-paying job. I don't think that the rich-getting-richer-and-the-poor-getting-poorer is anything like so bad in this country as it is in many other countries, but I still don't think it's *good*, exactly.

I don't think it's helpful that I feel *guilty* about all this, but I also think it would be naive and irresponsible for me to deny it.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] webcowgirl.livejournal.com
When I went to Egypt it was crazy, people are really educated but they can't get jobs! And because they can't get jobs, they can't get married ... it was a real mess.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com
I have been poor, by a definition I ticked above.

I wasn't sure what to tick for this one. My 'yes' is due to the fact that when I was a child my parents had to choose between paying the mortgage and feeding me, not because of anything to do with either 'rent' or choices I had to make.

I don't see how you can generalise about whose 'fault' it is when someone is poor - surely that depends on the reasons why they're poor?

Date: 2009-02-26 02:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I don't see how one can generalise, either, which is why I'm not - but I've heard other people doing so, and I'm interested to see if anyone can justify it. It might be worth reading that as "largely contributes to" or "largest factor in".

As I ticked myself, I don't think "fault" is a useful concept, but I know many people do.

Date: 2009-02-26 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
I've heard a few people use television ownership as a marker for the poverty line, although it does exclude the small minority of us who actually prefer not to have a television. For the US, an important marker could be whether or not you have access to healthcare, although the healthcare system is weird and complicated. I have limited access to healthcare myself due to disability; were I seriously rich, I could probably get around many of the problems. On the subject of disability, there are basic minimum standards of living that also apply, and again you're disadvantaged unless you're wealthy enough to pay for all of the care that you need (the care provided by the state is usually wildly insufficient). I'm talking about people not being able to bathe for weeks on end, that sort of thing. Being able to afford to heat your home sufficiently is another common poverty marker.

If there are still people sleeping on the streets or dying from causes directly attributable to poverty (e.g. starvation or hypothermia), I don't think anyone can say a country doesn't have poverty. What level of poverty and how many people suffer from it is more to the point.

Date: 2009-02-26 02:26 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (Default)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
Exactly.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taimatsu.livejournal.com
Ah, yes, heating is one I struggle with myself, because I'm on a pound coin meter and a student loan. By most of the others I'm fiiiiine, but that one...

Date: 2009-02-26 02:07 pm (UTC)
ext_83784: Me at Wasteland, Amsterdam - April 2009 (Default)
From: [identity profile] strangelover.livejournal.com
I know many people (whether right or wrong) consider Greece to be a poor country, while the UK is (or was until recently?) considered fairly well off.

The funny thing is, when I was in the UK, I really struggled at times. Sometimes I couldn't afford rent, I couldn't afford to eat and I was barely able to scrounge enough to get my transport costs to work covered. My ex landed me in incredible amounts of debt, which took me years to pay off and yeah, I definitely considered myself poor. It's not that I couldn't afford to do fun stuff, like go to the pub, but I couldn't afford necessities, like food and a roof over my head (or when I did have that, electricity and the like had to be carefully rationed).

Now I'm living in Greece, where people complain about how poor they are, yet there's a very low homeless rate here, pretty much every adult has a (fairly new) car, eats out regularly, so many things I consider 'luxuries'. Even my friends who are fairly broke still manage to go out for coffee, go clubbing, eat well, have a nice home, etc. The average quality of life is - in my opinion - much higher than in the UK.

Date: 2009-02-26 02:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
So in what ways would you consider Greece to be poor? Is it more to do with averaging out earnings, i.e. less of a gap between rich and poor so that fewer people are below the poverty line but the average earnings compare unfavourably to other countries?

Date: 2009-02-26 02:36 pm (UTC)
ext_83784: Me at Wasteland, Amsterdam - April 2009 (Default)
From: [identity profile] strangelover.livejournal.com
Actually I don't consider Greece poor, though I know many of my friends (certainly in the UK, who thought I was nuts to move from London to Athens) assume/d it is.

The average wage is quite low, but then so is the general cost of living. Sure, I earned considerably more in London, but my outgoings now are so much less, I'm not struggling to cover my rent or buy (quality) food. There is still a noticeable gap between rich and poor, especially when you venture outside of the cities, but I don't see people suffering as I did in the UK.

Date: 2009-02-26 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] robert-jones.livejournal.com
Interestingly (perhaps), I ticked more of the first set of boxes originally, then got to the second question and couldn't bring myself to claim to have ever been poor, when clearly I have not, so I went back and changed my first answer. I estimate that to support my preferred lifestyle requires £36k a year, and I'd be slightly appalled by the idea of earning less than that, but at the same time, in the past my income was a lot less than that, and I still felt rich.

I sometimes think that being rich is a state of mind, rather than a level of income/capital. It perhaps stems from the "never expect to be" answer in relation to some of the first questions.

In answering the first two questions, I'm referring to poverty in a UK context. I don't think anyone in the UK (or scarcely anyone) is poor by global standards, so I ticked no for the third question.

I didn't answer the final question, because I think it depends on the individual case.

Date: 2009-02-26 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purplecthulhu.livejournal.com
I ticked all of the options on the last question because if someone is poor any of those, or none, could be the case. I wasn't really sure what you were asking - it might be their own fault, it might be nobody's fault it might be everyone's. Generalizations aren't useful.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
My "poverty benchmark" is based around how things were for me when I lived in Leverstock Green on Income Support with two small children. I had no washing machine, frequently went without food so my daughters could eat, and foraged from the hedgerows and went poaching for rabbits to supplement our diet.

By contrast, whilst money is tight for us right now, I don't consider us to be in poverty despite the fact that I am on benefits, D earns less than £40K a year, we have no hopes of owning our own property and a car is out of the question. We've had to scrape for pennies a few times, but I've always managed to put food on the table, and we've not been faced with the dilemma of whether to pay the rent or buy food - so I do not consider us to be poor.

When you've been used to having very little at some point in the past, you can be surprisingly content with little later on. What I consider "comfortable", someone else might deem intolerable based on what their preferred lifestyle and expectations are.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] webcowgirl.livejournal.com
I remember "foraging" behind restaurants when I was out of college and not able to get work, but since I never went without food, I didn't consider myself poor. Probably I should have, but I managed my rent and I wasn't hungry, and since I found work (finally) in restaurants, I ultimately never had to go without food. I was without a car (and rode a bike), without any heating or cooling in my house (bit of a problem in Arizona), without healthcare, but I had a roof and food and no debts. One mis-step on the health thing though (like the bad PAP smear I didn't have the money to follow up, if it had gone really bad while I was doing nothing about it) and it could have been a lot different.

I also didn't qualify for government assistance, not even for food stamps, once I got my minimum wage job.

Good on you for the rabbit hunting! You sound so amazingly resourceful.

In America, I think ultimately poor is not able to afford a car (or even a motorcycle). It really spirals down your economic situation if you're living someplace without a good public transportation system.

Date: 2009-02-26 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
And there we have a big difference between countries, a lot of it depending on the proportion of people in urban vs. rural areas. I grew up in London and moved to Edinburgh as an adult, and you can do absolutely fine in both without a car. So I tend to forget that in some parts of the world you absolutely need a car if you want to get, oh, I don't know, food, healthcare, or to your place of employment.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] webcowgirl.livejournal.com
When you have to have someone "do you a favor" to get you to the doctor or, worse yet, get you to work, you find you start running out of friends really quickly.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
Yes - in Hertfordshire and London, there are excellent transport links so I've never needed a car - the most I had was a bicycle. However in rural Wales where my eldest two lived until recently, if you don't have a car then you are very much disadvantaged.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arkady.livejournal.com
Good on you for the rabbit hunting! You sound so amazingly resourceful.

I did what I had to, really; I was just lucky that my father grew up in rural Scotland and learned a lot of woodcraft and hunting, and he passed those skills onto me. He taught me how to tickle trout, too. He also showed me how to knap flint to make knives and arrowheads, but thankfully that's a skill I've never had to rely on for tools! :-)

Date: 2009-02-26 04:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tiny-eri.livejournal.com
I don't have much of a constructive, discussion inducing comment but I found this survey interesting as I've never really defined poverty to myself before.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taimatsu.livejournal.com
I think I have an additional possible poverty signal or criterion - living on a low income (maybe even slightly above minimum wage) but struggling to the extent that one small thing going wrong can tip you into the food-or-rent dilemma. The sense of being constantly on the edge is what I'm getting at. That's not poverty by a lot of definitions, but I think it's a relevant concept.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
That's a very good point - it's one I was thinking about, but couldn't work out how to phrase. Thank you for mentioning it.

Date: 2009-02-26 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thekumquat.livejournal.com
That's roughly my concept of poverty - you may be functioning OK currently, but you're only one small crisis (late paycheque, car or washing machine repair bill, boiler dies, extra-cold winter, wallet stolen) from the 'which bills can I pay' dilemma.

Not having a financial cushion, in other words. Although the level of some bills is down to choices you make, it's hard to escape all of them.

The government define poverty in the UK as having less than 50% of median earnings (something like that), so it's relative. But depending on where and how you live, you might feel well off or incredibly poor on that amount.

Date: 2009-02-27 12:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazyknight.livejournal.com
"Civilisation is only three meals from the wilderness" is the phrase I've heard before, I think

Date: 2009-02-27 02:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashfae.livejournal.com
I very much agree with this.

Date: 2009-02-26 04:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yaqub.livejournal.com
I think the official definition of poverty in this country is 'not having money for leisure activities'. By that definition, poverty is easy enough to reach. But whether or not somebody else considers that to be poverty is a different story, of course.

As to 'faults': there are a lot of things which can cause people to have little or no money. Sometimes it can be somebody's own stupid behaviour, sometimes it can be circumstances beyond their control. It would be a case by case situation to work out whose 'fault' it would be.

Date: 2009-02-26 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fire-kitten.livejournal.com
how odd.
I was thinking about this on the way home, in the context of the choices I have made. When I finished my degree I realised I could continue to work in that field and be "poor" (by my definition) for ever - or choose an alternate career and not be poor.

Thank you - this helps alarify my musings

Date: 2009-02-26 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purplepiano.livejournal.com
I'm interested why people have ticked "crime" but not "moral laxity". Do they not think that crime is generally immoral? Or do they think that crime committed by poor people is less immoral than crime committed by rich people? Or that rich people indulge in more non-criminal immorality to equal poor people's criminality? Or is it just the right-wing connotation of the phrase which gives people an ick reaction?

Date: 2009-02-27 12:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
I assumed that 'moral laxity' was a euphemism for deceitfulness, sexual promiscuity etc, rather than criminality.
From: [identity profile] lazyknight.livejournal.com
Hmm. that's a wonderful, leading and misleading type of question dude.

There is a direct correlation between the number of people with 5 or more substandard amalgun fillings and people with a BMI of 30 or higher. Therefore, there having alamgum fillings causes obesity.

Correlation, I'd agree with if you could show me the stats... but poverty causes X? Hmm.
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Well, "cause" is basically correlation plus a plausible mechanism. Whilst I don't have the stats to hand, they're common enough that they seem absolutely standard to me - not that I'm asserting any of them, but I've seen the correlations quoted a lot. And I see plausible mechanisms (stories) that can lead from one to the other.

Date: 2009-02-27 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashfae.livejournal.com
I'm not sure if poverty is a natural consequence of society or not. I'm inclined to think it is, because I've never run into a society that didn't have poverty somewhere, but then my experience of diverse societies is very limited.

I am lucky. I describe myself as poor sometimes, because we have to budget very closely and can't do much that's frivolous, but the truth is that we can do some frivolous things, plus we have parental safety nets; I've never had to choose between food and rent because I've always been able to ask for help and receive it. (granted, I receive it because my parents know that I only ask for help when it's really needed; I would really, really prefer to be independent). I have to watch our money supply but I'm not really poor at all.

Date: 2009-02-27 03:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] strangederby2.livejournal.com
I found it hard to answer the "If someone is poor" question. I cant get past the "different for every case" thing.

Date: 2009-02-27 09:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] claudacity.livejournal.com
gosh, this is such an interesting post and even more interesting comments!! when I saw the question on poverty in developed countries I looked for the YES, YES, YES option. where is it?? ;p

I think my experience of poverty in developed countries have been quite different in the 2 developed countries I've lived in - singapore and the UK. mainly because the UK has a much, much more extensive welfare and benefits system than singapore, and the welfare model is explicitly rejected by the singaporean government. and yet I've met so many kids (while teaching) whose families struggle to buy them school uniforms and school lunches. so it's a strange situation, singapore is as developed as they come, but it isn't particularly even development. (and worsening in the current economic climate.)

I'm a little staggered by some of the possible definitions of poverty (low to no income, little savings and mostly lots of debt) as this pretty much defines the financial situation of almost everyone I know and myself, i.e. students. yet I wouldn't consider myself poor, nor would most of my friends. are students poor? seems like a cliche, the poor student, but studenthood = poverty? I'm quite ambivalent about this.

Date: 2009-03-01 12:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
The thing about students, classically, is that it's a temporary state - they have a reasonable expectation of not being poor later on. It's the same in socialist movements... students often aren't considered real workers, they're just playing at it and will go back to the status quo after their three years' flirtation.

Obviously, this is a stereotype, but it's there for a reason.

Date: 2009-03-07 01:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] songster.livejournal.com
You're missing an important category in the top question. "...were dependent on Government benefits to buy food/shelter/water/sanitation."

Government benefits come in many forms - some to alleviate aspects of poverty (e.g. housing benefit), some to alleviate other ills (e.g. disability benefit) and some to promote stuff deemed to be of benefit to society (e.g. child benefit). Personally, I receive child benefit and don't consider myself to be poor. I wouldn't necessarily consider a disabled person on DLA to be poor. If I were dependent on housing benefit for the roof over my head, and JSA for the food I eat, then yes I'd consider myself poor.

For me, the criterion is that you are not able to obtain adequate food/shelter/water/sanitation from your own endeavours. Thus it applies in cases where those things are indeed lacking (e.g homelessness), and also to cases where those are provided by an external agency (living on benefits). In the latter case, the benefits have alleviated the symptoms of being poor, in that the f/s/w/san have been provided.

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