The psychology of poverty

Marketplace:

Imagine this: You’re at your child’s baseball game. You’ve got a deadline coming up tomorrow and its been a hard day. You want to focus on your child’s game, but you can’t. To some, you may seem like a bad parent, but you can’t shake the fact that you have things to do. This is something we can all relate to. Harvard professor Sendhil Mullainathan claims that poverty has a similar effect on people’s minds.

“When faced with financial scarcity, people’s minds keep coming back to concerns such as — how will I pay rent this month,” Mullainathan said.

But doesn’t this apply to everyone? If you have to make a bunch of decisions, aren’t you going to be somewhat distracted?  What’s so different about poor people being psychologically affected? Mullainathan said the difference is in the magnitude and intensity of that effect.

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