Living in Poverty v.s. Being Temporarily Poor: Blog Action Day 08

I am often reminding myself that there is a difference between living in poverty and being temporarily poor.

Last year, sales when the Mister and I were both out of jobs, website like this I would often complain of being poor. And yes, in a sense we were – but we had some savings and family who could help us out. We had a roof over our head, an old car that worked, way too much education between the two of us and, best of all, each other. I remember one time the Mister mentioned how much money we made in a year (jointly, before taxes) to a friend whose reaction was, “But you don’t seem poor.” At the time we were below the government-deemed poverty line (or Low-Income Cut Off as they call it since, “Unlike the United States and some other countries, Canada has no official, government-mandated poverty line, and Statistics Canada publicly cautions that its Low Income Cut-offs (LICOs) should not be seen as such.” link) but didn’t really feel poor as we were both working and had money coming in.

Poverty can be measured in two distinct ways: absolute and relative. Absolute poverty is measured by comparing a personís total income against the total cost of purchasing a specific Ďbasketí of goods and services representing the essentials of daily life. People with inadequate income to purchase this basket of items are considered to be living in absolute poverty.

Relative poverty compares a personís total income and spending patterns with those of the general population. People with lower income who spend a larger portion of their income on a basket of goods and services, compared with some threshold that is more typical of the general population, are considered to be living in relative poverty.

The common component in any measure of poverty is that a personís income and consumption levels fall below a minimum threshold necessary to meet their basic needs. The specific definition of poverty, however, varies from country to country.

via Canadian Economy

Without money coming in things got a little scary but at the same time I look around this apartment at all the stuff we have and know that most of my needs are really wants. Essentially it boils down to this: we have never, ever, gone with out food or a roof over our head – and I think that is the real measure of poverty.

†I haven’t read Jeffrey Sach’s book The End of Poverty but it is on my to-read list. Sachs talks about extreme poverty. I think it is important to keep things in perspective. In my city there are currently over 4,000 homeless people – but that doesn’t mean there are over 4,000 people on the streets begging for change. In fact, the itinerant population is just a small fraction of what I think of as the real face of homelessness – families who have fallen on hard times and can’t afford a place to live. Many are working low-paying jobs but still can’t make their paycheque stretch enough to get them out of the shelters. This still isn’t extreme poverty in the Millennium Promise sense but I think it is a good, local, measuring stick for many of us who complain about not having any money.

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