An expat returned. Thoughts about international development from Brooklyn.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
What is poverty?
There are many ways of looking at it. Here's an excerpt from Carola Barton's summary of some of the ways of viewing it:
We sometimes treat it as a matter of blame: the poor are poor because they cannot or choose not to be better off. We sometimes treat it as a matter of virtue: people choose material poverty because it generates—or does not interfere with—spiritual well-being.
We have a long history of explanations for the existence of poverty:
Sociology: the poor are poor because human beings instinctively look to differentiate themselves from one another, and someone needs to be at the bottom of the pyramid
Economics: the poor are poor because economic forces depend on a mass of impoverished workers to provide the labor that makes our societies run
Psychology/Physiology: the poor are poor because individuals have unequal faculties, and in a society that does not compensate for those inequalities, someone must wind up at the bottom
Scarcity: the poor are poor because there aren’t enough resources to go around
Environment: the poor are poor because of regional environmental conditions—climate, topography, soil, etc.
Spirituality: the poor have chosen material poverty because they have found, or have been endowed with, immaterial sources of wealth