Why do the poor make so many poor decisions? I know it's a harsh question, but take a look at the data. The poor borrow more, save less, smoke more, exercise less, drink more and eat less healthfully. Why? well, the standard explanation was once summed up by the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. And she called poverty "a personality defect."
“ Some of you may believe that the poor should be held responsible for their own mistakes. And others may argue that we should help them to make better decisions. But the underlying assumption is the same: there's something wrong with them. If we could just change them, if we could just teach them how to live their lives, if they would only listen. And to be honest, this was what I thought for a long time. It was only a few years ago that I discovered that everything I thought I knew about poverty was wrong.”
You should know that these farmers collect about 60 percent of their annual income all at once, right after the harvest. This means that they're relatively poor one part of the year and rich the other. The researchers asked them to do an IQ test before and after the harvest. What they subsequently discovered completely blew my mind. The farmers scored much worse on the test before the harvest. The effects of living in poverty, it turns out, correspond to losing 14 points of IQ. Now, to give you an idea, that's comparable to losing a night's sleep or the effects of alcoholism.
A few months later, I heard that Eldar Shafir, a professor at Princeton University and one of the authors of this study, was coming over to Holland, where I live. So we met up in Amsterdam to talk about his revolutionary new theory of poverty. And I can sum it up in just two words: scarcity mentality. It turns out that people behave differently when they perceive a thing to be scarce. And what that thing is doesn't much matter — whether it's not enough time, money or food.
和普林斯顿大学教授 Eldar Shafir讨论过之后，作者总结了贫穷的根本原因：scarcity mentality （匮乏心态）。当人们处于匮乏状态的时候，行为模式会发生很大的改变。缺乏什么并不重要，不管是时间，钱还是食物的缺乏。
George Orwell, one of the greatest writers who ever lived, experienced poverty firsthand in the 1920s. "The essence of poverty," he wrote back then, is that it "annihilates the future." And he marveled at, quote, "How people take it for granted they have the right to preach at you and pray over you as soon as your income falls below a certain level."