Poverty is

Recent conversation over in EE got me thinking about poverty, and what defines it. What does it mean to be poor? One blog I stumbled upon posted a video that tries to answer that question.


don’t know if you‘ve seen this or not. I was a bit skeptical when I first heard the answer — too simplistic maybe. But I appreciate the point very much, especially like his application at the end.
Thoughts? Very sobering for me personally.

Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean that you don’t have friends. However, your friends probably don’t have money either.

That was a long video to just say poverty is lack of friends. I suppose in a VERY broad sense, that is true. If by ‘friends’ you mean connections and people who will cooperate with you, then yes, the extreme poor often lack that, or at least they lack friendship with people who could actually help them.

If I lost my job right now and had nothing, my family would help me out, or friends would. I would not become homeless. In that sense, poverty is very unlikely for me. So I see his point. But unfortunately, it does not follow from that that giving homeless people friends would get them out of poverty.

My first thought upon seeing the title was John Scalzi’s post entitled Being Poor, which is not something you want to read if you don’t want to get depressed.

For the record, Funkula wasn’t kidding. Now I’m depressed.

EDIT: Read the comments as well. It’s all heart breaking.


Largely agreed with Robert. Speaking broadly, “friends” as contacts, or a kind of personal infrastructure do make a big difference. Where I work we did a study a while back showing how important knowing someone in a position to influence the decision in your favor, as opposed to merely being qualified, was in terms of getting a job. I wouldn’t say poverty precisely = lack of friendship, but I do like that it’s taken into account when we so frequently focus purely on personal finances or whatever.

I’d also mention that being poor is often incredibly time consuming. Trivial matters that more affluent people can dispose of routinely can take much longer when you’re poor (getting medical care, grocery shopping, home repairs, etc), which means fewer hours left in the day to do various productive things to get out of poverty.

Is this poverty in the first world? I say this because I think that people in the 3rd world don’t lack of friendship, it’s just that they’re all stuck in the same situation.

The impression I got from the video was that he was mainly referring to first world poverty. Like you said, his theory doesn’t fit so well with someone say living in Africa. Regardless, I appreciate his focus not on money and materials, but on friendships and relationships. A personal, relational approach to poverty is soo much tougher than throwing money at the problem. Hell, I’d be quite hesitant to walk up to a homeless man on the street and not throw money in his cap, but actually put forth genuine effort to be his friend and care for him, a total stranger. But I think it is obvious which approach would be more transforming.