how poor is poor

How Poor is Poor? Comparing personal wealth

Posted on Posted in community development, poverty, update

How poor is poor? It is a tough question to answer. Does it come down to an amount in a bank account or something else? I think that a meal I had in Sendai, Japan helped me understand what it means to have enough wealth to make a choice

I like to eat out. I love the variety of options. The ingredients I don’t normally stock in my kitchen. When it is time to head out, like lunch today I always ask the same question. “What do I feel like?” If I am in a new city with a friend, the question changes slightly, “what are my options?” That was the case when I was in Japan – I ate a tonne of great sushi, fantastic udon and katsu dishes, and of course some excellent beef tongue.

Tongue is not my normal ‘go-to’ meal, but I was in Sendai reviewing some of our work by ERDO and my host wanted to show me something special – in Sendai that is cow tongue.


Quite tasty – although I wasn’t sure who was tasting who!


This choice of mine is pretty incredible. Living in Canada, I can find and afford almost any type of good food I can imagine! It made me wonder about this word “options”


What if there were no options?

That is a pretty good definition of poverty. Being poor is not so much about a $ amount as it is about the ability (or inability) to make a choice.

Think about it for a minute. What are you able to choose regarding …

  • your next meal?
  • your career?
  • your home?
  • your childs school?
  • your footwear?
  • your sense of style?
  • your vacation?
  • the colour of your car?

I wonder if it is in these options, that we find out how poor is poor. It is in the differences in the ability to make a choice that wealth and poverty are defined.


Levels of wealth:

There are many ways to define our wealth – we can compare bank balances, or perhaps we can compare what kind of choices our finances will allow us to make.



Many parts of the world has not reached this level.

This is a precarious place, a flood or hurricane, a long cold spell or lack of rain can turn a year deadly. Of course, like all good neighbours, others will help, but the majority of the people who live around you are at the same spot, so they too are affected by what affects you. If you are in trouble, chances are good they are in trouble too.

If you do not need to choose one child over another for education or tonights meal, congratulations – you have reached the first level of wealth!


The next level is MARGIN – you have access to support, medical care in an emergency.

If a flood comes and you lose your house, you have opportunity to access support


Future orientation:

The next tier to reach is to provide more for your children than for yourself.

You can think beyond a day, week or even a month ahead.  You can begin to think about the next generation.  Your child can be fed AND go to school.



The next level of wealth is one where you can provide a certain level of COMFORT, you can buy that luxury item – a tv, a personal car, a shelf of books!

Your resources go beyond basic needs.



Next we come to PREFERENCES. not only can you buy comfort, you can buy with a degree of personal choice in mind.

That used car you want can be either silver or red.

When you buy some entertainment, you choose between that game or this other book. Here you are able to choose what you wish.


Is the level of wealth where you can buy items out of bored choice.

You can make purchases  or donations on a whim.

If you spend money in a casual way, you will not miss it at all.


Where do you fit? and what do you feel like for lunch?

Mark Crocker

(Visited 88 time, 1 visit today)

3 thoughts on “How Poor is Poor? Comparing personal wealth

Tell us what you think!