The decisions of rich and poor are not equivalent.

The decisions of rich and poor are not equivalent.

Al humans have the same basic needs. To eat, be entertained, laugh, have relationships with other people, have a life of some kind.

But the flexibility of choices is different depending on your bottom line.

So, some things that the poor do can be confusing to people with more comfortable (relatively speaking) bottom lines.

Example: You might see someone who is in poverty having, say, a really nice pocketbook or brand new fancy shoes, yet they don’t have enough money to dress their kids in more than the basics.

A teacher who makes more than they do might look down at them. “Oh, you have a nice pocketbook but your kids are dressed in ill fitting clothes. What kind of mother are you?” and they won’t understand.

But the thing is: everybody needs to feel good about themselves, especially when everything around you is otherwise bleak or dire. Is the mother wrong for that decision? Not from her perspective and I suspect her kids are also fine with it. There’s no need to dress for school but maybe she needs to dress up a little for work or if she doesn’t work, so that at least she has some social standing in her community, especially if they know that they’ll never be capable of leaving their social class. [not through any fault of their own but because the bar between poverty and living income is often a VERY very far distance. I’ve seen charts for that but i hope I don’t have to dig them up… :) ]

It’s easy for those with to judge harshly those without. But you have to work with what you have in order to attempt to achieve similar goals.


One example you often hear: “You’re never too poor to be clean”. But that’s the viewpoint of someone who was never poor enough to face that decision: Eat or get laundry detergent. Can you make do with water from the sink in order to squeak by enough to pay the rent? Decisions that people with even a little more income don’t even have to consider.


People who are poor usually come from already poor families.

What would be a situation where someone started with middle income and ended up poor?


Oh they’re “slumming it”? I don’t feel so bad in that case. But I don’t think they’re the majority. They chose to turn their backs on their families.


Oh there’s research on poor people winning the lottery. There’s some successes but often they end up back where they were. Is it poor decision making? See, that’s hard to say. They’re in a unique circumstance that most people don’t have to face. What can prepare you for suddenly striking it rich? Family/friends coming out of the woodwork asking for free money? Pressure from all around you suddenly that you’re not used to?

I’m not surprised that most of them don’t ‘make it’ when they take the lump sum. It’s getting hit with another world suddenly without any context to grab onto.


So that might be the kind of case to explore. Sounds like what you’re talking about. I’ve known a few people who went down that road and actually, it’s not uncommon come to think of it.


It’s an easy fantasy: “They’re poor because they chose to be poor and therefore it’s not my responsibility”.

But there’s little evidence of that, although a case can be made for people who came from decent famliies, got into drugs/bad relationships/stupid friends and ended up there.

But are they the majority of the poor?

[I know I seem contradictory but the people I’ve known that went through a shit phase in their 20s USUALLY end up scrambling back on their feet because they KNOW what a better life is like and they eventually want it again]



There’s a time limit for some opportunities though. From age 17-25-ish, middle-aged and older adults are often willing to give you an extra hand. Universities will throw you loans. Business owners will forgive you of stupid behaviors up to a point. They’ll call you “kid” – that’s a sign that you’re getting leniency.

But around 27 yrs or so, the doors shut. You’re just Man. Woman. Sir. Ma’am. Adult.

What then? At that point, the extra help is gone. Some of it goes away by the age of 20. More of it gone by the age of 23. Almost all gone by 25 and by 27, it’s unlikely to find it at all unless you’re really good at what you do. [but being a ‘whiz kid’ I got away with stuff and still do but that’s another scenario]…


Ok: Common example: Living beyond your means. The car loan is an example but let’s go to housing:

If you can only afford a home in a neighborhood with crime, but with some financial trickery you manage to snag a loan that’s more than you can pay that will get you in a better neighborhood with less crime, do you live within your means in a bad neighborhood or do you go for the loan that you can’t afford to repay in the hopes that the better neighborhood will afford you further opportunities?


I’m not mentioning the top-down explanationsbecause you’re covering that aspect. I’m covering the bottom-up aspect, or working on it


This might be too broad: I found this from 1977 but it’s been referenced 3000+ times. I don’t know where it sides on the issue as I haven’t read it but it appears to be a reference work of at least some significance.


“Grit” has been a buzzword in American education circles. The idea is that if you teach poor kids to be tough and have ‘grit’, they’ll succeed. So you induce failure after failure to make them tougher.

But the thing is: poor kids already have grit. It’s been starting to lose favor finally but the ‘grit’ mindset was a blight on US education for a few years now. Grit is related to “The poor make poor choices”, albeit at a slight tangent.


It’s good you can help Josh Boulton with the macro Eric Molholm. I’m versed enough in the micro (not terminologies but experience) but my macroeconomics knowledge is limited to some investing I did way back when and I studied nation and continent trends over time to predict who was up and coming and who was economically about to stagnate.

But as that’s based on the naive rationalist assumptions built-in to the markets, it’s of limited value for Josh’s quest. [and most of my investment successes were by predicting the emotions of groups anyway but even that’s still stapled onto rational assumptions, which will remain true so long as the “growth-based” assumption remains in force].

Anyway, none of that is related to Josh’s stuff here. I’m just glad you can give the help I can’t give.


As soon as hear govt and corporate policies towards peoples, political theories which attempt to rationalize the marginalizing of peoples (of whatever kind of marginalizing) for the purposes of improving their power upon the backs of the marginalized (of whatever kind – I don’t need to segment into economic, social, etc), I just start getting angry. Some subjects I can’t discuss dispassionately as everyday things as if they should be normal human behavior. So, it keeps me from abstracting to certain levels required for that kind of discussions.



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