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Mon Nov 25, 2019, 10:38 AM

The myth of the undeserving poor

Poverty researchers and activists have to battle against an ideological tide which insists that if you are in poverty it is either your own fault for not trying hard enough to get a job, or for failing to acquire the skills that would qualify you for a better-paid job. And if it is no one’s fault but your own, you have no justified claims against others or the state. At most, we might give assistance out of the goodness of our hearts, but there are no claims of right or justice.
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As international and historical comparisons demonstrate, structural factors - most notably the state of the economy, government policy regarding minimum wage, unemployment benefits, housing support, income support, and the provision of public services – are the primary determinants of the level of poverty in any country. Of those vulnerable to poverty, individual grit, determination and resilience can sometimes make a difference. But it is also becoming more widely accepted that poverty grinds down people’s ability to plan and make effective choices.

And here we return to our starting point. Poverty is not so much about the choices people make, but rather what they find themselves forced to choose between. Economists love to teach us about the concept of “opportunity cost”: what you have to give up in order to pursue a particular option. Poverty can be understood in these terms. If you are rich, your choices have very little opportunity cost; if you are poor, the opportunity costs can be immense.

[link:https://www.newstatesman.com/2019/11/myth-undeserving-poor|]

As Barack Obama said how do you 'Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots.'
There is absolutely no level playing field... We do not all have the same advantages in life.
I am not suggesting that for some they can have a truly crappy start in life and raise themselves out of poverty through dint of sweat, blood and tears. And well done to them. But that is not the norm. How we get brought up matters. Education matters. Wages matter. Mindset matters. Society matters. How we help people to be the best they can possibly be matters…


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Response to Soph0571 (Original post)

Mon Nov 25, 2019, 11:06 AM

1. K&R

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Response to Soph0571 (Original post)

Mon Nov 25, 2019, 11:19 AM

2. I liked this paragraph:

The critical factor for Rowntree is not how people spend their money, but what they have to give up in order to have what they regard as essential to a normal human life. The middle-class commentators did not have to choose between a wedding ring and vitamin C for their newborns. They did not have to choose between going to the cinema and eating lunch the next day. On this view, to understand whether someone is in poverty, the best test is not what they buy but the choices they face and the sacrifices they have to make to do what is taken for granted by others.

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