Define "poor" (or "poverty")

Discussion on defining “rich” made me think in the other direction.

However, in this case, there seems to be a pervasive use of the term “poverty” for social causes, and in some cases, its applied to a setting where the people don’t see themselves impoverished so much as having some basic needs (e.g., “clean water”) more readily available to the community (e.g., not having to walk 1 to 2 miles to a well/spring for water).

For this discussion, let’s limit it to developed countries (and let’s also forego comparisons to developing countries, if possible :face_with_head_bandage: ).

I’m sure that there’s a gap between the “poverty” line and the “rich” line . . . but how far apart are they?

Poverty is being unable to afford the basic necessities of life; food, participating at a basic level in society.
Poor is not being able to afford a middle class lifestyle.
Once you’re at the top end of middle class lifestyle and earnings, then you’re rich. Maybe not richie rich, but still rich.


I believe if you regularly get your water turned off, you’re in poverty.

Poverty - cannot afford to pay bills for following without outside assistance:
Food, Rent, Healthcare, Utilities, Phone, Car, Gas
Poor - can typically meet the bills for those categories, though may have issues meeting an unexpected multi-hundred dollar expense.
Lower Middle Class - can meet the bills, can occasionally spend on something frivolous.
Middle Class - can meet the bills, can take a modest vacation once a year, can go to the movies or restaurant. Can handle unexpected expenses (car, home, medical)
Upper middle class - meet the bills, can take a nicer vacation once a year, can do more “fun” things on a regular basis.
Rich - Doesn’t have to look at or even think about their bank account balance when purchasing items that cost less than $1,000. Can decide to just upgrade something in their house because they want to without much thought. Can travel if they want. No worry about your finances.
Other tiers of rich - Increase the dollar threshold for things you can spend on to increasingly higher levels

(applies to US comparison only)

1 Like

poverty is avoiding debt collectors all day

AIG couldn’t afford to pay its bills without outside assistance

AIG was poor, or perhaps broke is more apt? The people who ran AIG were and most likely still are rich. Or wealthy at least, maybe some of them drive a Honda.

I wonder if the building ever had its water turned off

Not sure, but they sure were avoiding debt collectors.

In my experience the billing departments of actuarial consultancies regularly have to threaten their clients with debt collector like calls to get them to pay.

I used to think these kinds of things were more automatic.

Seriously??? I’ve never worked in consulting, I would assume most clients would just pay the bills. At my last company we hired consultants a couple of times, my company’s payment system sucked, so it took us a while to pay but just due to red tape.

There are frequently disputes and sometimes the client goes way over budget. When that happens both the SVP paying for the consulting services on the client side and the aspirational consultant trying to make partner are in serious trouble and that kind of thing can delay payment. The SVP for underestimating costs and the consultant for overprojecting revenue.

I remember commenting on AO that I was visiting a (poorer) friend and I wanted to go to a particular restaurant in her city and I was willing to pay for both of us. She asked where it was, looked on a map, checked which day it was, thought about it for a couple minutes and finally proclaimed that it was too far away. This seemed silly to me. It was like maybe 15 miles, but it was Sunday afternoon and we had no plans the rest of the evening. So who cares? She was dropping me off at the airport before work the next morning and I was catching a red eye home.

It later occurred to me that she was figuring out how much gas was left in her car and how many trips she needed make to work and back before payday, plus driving me to the airport, on the gas that remained in her car and if that left enough gas to make the round trip to the restaurant. And evidently it didn’t.

I cited that as an example of living paycheck to paycheck. But for this maybe that’s an example of lower middle class? She lived in a decent apartment in a safe neighborhood and her car was ok. I think like a 9 or 10 year old Honda Civic. Nothing special, but nothing wrong with it.

Middle class would always be able to gas up their car without thinking about it, I’d say.

yup that’s one of the signs of being poor: not filling up your tank each time u go to the station. Rich or well off people don’t understand this

Yeah, I wasn’t paying attention, but I think her boyfriend actually filled her tank a few days earlier.

She was in the Phoenix area & I’d gone down to celebrate her birthday and go to some Spring Training games. So we were driving all over the place going to different ballparks in the area. But of course I’m sitting there thinking… I paid for the expensive tickets on the day of her birthday, her boyfriend paid for tickets to one of the other games, we got cheap seats to the third game, her boyfriend or I paid for every meal out… so my visit wasn’t costing her an arm & a leg or anything. I crashed on her couch and she picked me up at the airport & dropped me off and supplied the groceries we ate for breakfast… which seemed fairly modest.

But it just hasn’t dawned on me that she literally didn’t have the cash to gas up her car.

I feel like I’m living paycheck to paycheck if I have to either wait for payday or transfer money from the savings account to the checking account to pay a bill (in full, before the due date) in a month when we didn’t have any major purchases. But this is a whole different level.

And the fun really starts when the car breaks down.

1 Like

Especially when its something that generally doesn’t impair its operation right now (but could make things worse–and more expensive–later on if not fixed).

Fun story with that, my grandmother was pretty hard up living in the UK when my dad was small and she had a leaky roof (not great in the UK) but asked the mechanic for the cheapest solution. In the end he apparently drilled a hole in the floor to let the water out.

I had a clear example of the difference between rich and poor some years ago. I read that folks in the us will get tickets who can’t afford to pay for them. They get pulled over and they’re going to go to jail, so they run, and probably get shot.
My daughter got a speeding ticket some years ago that I had to pay. I got a bit grumpy and said “you’re going to go to court to try to reduce my bill”. My SO and I took the day off work, and the three of us went to court. The prosecuter called us into the office, opened the file, said “the cop made a mistake, it won’t get into court, I’m dropping everything”. We walked out 30 seconds later, scott free.
We’re rich enough to take a day off work over ‘principles’, and pay the fine if that’s the downside. Poor people in the same situation can end up dead.

Yeah pretty dystopian. Not cheap being poor.