Distinguishing material poverty from behavioural poverty
Material poverty, which compared with past generations in the Western World scarcely exists, differs from behavioural poverty, where people "regard and treat" the poor as materially poor. A poor person is classed as poor because he or she has significantly less material wealth than the average citizen, but the average poor person of today in wealthy countries has more material wealth than the average poor person of the past, and has a level of wealth which satisfies and/or exceeds his or her own basic needs. Thus, many of today's poor in rich countries live in behavioural poverty.
The last census reported that 39.3 million Americans lived in absolute poverty. The US health authorities report that those 39.3 million people that are children eat twice as much protein (the most expensive nutrient) as is medically desirable, so their chief food related problem is obesity. The archetype American is a she who has twice as much living space as a middle-class Japanese, four times that of a Russian. She eats more meat than the average Western European.
Basic needs such as living space, education, nutrition, and health care are only acceptable if they are of a reasonable quality, not quantity. Behavioural poverty is just as damning as material poverty because people remain and/or are just as marginalized in society.
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