Saturday, April 22, 2006

relative depravity

Was reading the April 3 issue of the New Yorker with an article by John Cassidy from the Annals of Economics called, "Relative Depravity." The article was mostly about how to calculate poverty in any kind of tangible and meaningful way since the way they calculate it now is from the 1960s based on a subsistence model.

He brings up the topic of relative depravity citing a couple of studies that seem to suggest that yes it really is true, we like to keep up with the Joneses. And when we don't, then we consider ourselves poor or poorer than others well because we're not that rich. On the lowest rung, even though most poor people have tvs, vcrs, dishwashers, which makes them quite rich in comparison say third world countries, they live in a country where the middle class, have better and bigger tvs, game consoles, dvd players, high speed internet, etc.

Which I suppose explains why you have some "middle class" families in ridiculous amounts of debt as they try to keep the image "of keeping up" even when someone loses their job because we'll do just about anything to not be relatively deprived. Refuse to go down a rung in our societal status.

May explain why the first generation of immigrants don't feel impoverished relative to where they came from though their children born in the States feel the weight of the poverty more.

But according to the article, it explains why policemen who have little opportunity for advancement say they are happier with work than air force personnel with lots of opportunities of advancement. People count how many other people are moving ahead of them. The more they think their peers are pulling ahead, the less happy they are about where they are. A kind of crab mentality when watching others advance.

At the same time, the article cited how in one program when they were able to situate impoverished families in more middleclass neighborhoods, they were able to break the poverty cycle as they conformed to reach their neighbor's standards of not only material living, but also living expectations. Everyone's kids go to school, play outside, etc.

The article then reminded me of what a friend of mine with Cerebral Palsy told me about disabled children growing up, they don't know that their life should/could/supposed to be any other way. Which also explains how even in poverty kids find a way to be happy at least they realize life didn't have to be that way or should have been something different.

When life is simply life, it's easier to make life better. Building from a place to build up, rather than thinking you have to build out of a hole.

1 comment:

Wet Romance said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.