Hidden Rules of Poverty

Hidden Rules of Poverty

We know that our economic situation has great influence on how we see our world and our future. And studies have created framework for what is considered the "culture of poverty" - providing eye-opening comparisons between persons who live in poverty, those in middle class, and those who are wealthy. Take a look at this chart and compare the way you view the world with those who live with "the hidden rules of poverty."


POSSESSIONS People. Things. One-of -a-kind objects, legacies, pedigrees.
MONEY To be used, spent. To be managed. To be conserved, invested.
PERSONALITY Is for entertainment. Sense of humor is highly valued. Is for acquisition and stability. Achievement is highly valued. Is for connections. Financial, political, social connections are highly valued.
SOCIAL EMPHASIS Social inclusion of people he/she likes. Emphasis is on self-governance and self-sufficiency. Emphasis is on social exclusion.
FOOD Key question: Did you have enough? Quantity important. Key question: Did you like it?Quality Important. Key question: Was it presented well? Presentation important.
CLOTHING Clothing valued for individual style and expression of personality. Clothing valued for its quality and acceptance into norm of middle class. Label important. Clothing valued for its artistic sense and expression. Designer important.
TIME Present most important. Decisions made for moment based on feelings or survival. Future most important. Decisions made against future ramifications; Traditions and history, most important. Decisions mode partially on basis of tradition and decorum.
EDUCATION Valued and revered as abstract but not as reality. Education is about facts. Crucial for climbing success ladder and making money. Necessary tradition for making and maintaining connections.
DESTINY Believes in fate. Cannot do much to mitigate chance. Believes in choice. Can change future with good choices now. Noblesse oblige.
LANGUAGE Casual register. Language is about survival. Formal register. Language is about negotiation. Formal register. Language is about networking.
FAMILY STRUCTURE Tends to be matriarchal. Tends to be patriarchal. Depends on who has/ controls money.
WORLD VIEW Sees world in terms of local setting Sees world in terms of national setting. Sees world in terms of international view.
LOVE Love and acceptance conditional based upon whether individual is liked. Love and acceptance conditional and based largely upon achievement. Love and acceptance conditional and related to social standing and connections.
DRIVING FORCES Survival, relationships, and entertainment. Work, achievement. Financial, political, and social connections.

Source: Ruby Payne, A Framework for Understanding Poverty. Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc., 1996

This information provides guidance for all our work; girls and families involved in Chrysalis After-School come from all socio-economic situations and family structures. Women served by our grantee partners as well, represent a diverse array of life experiences, economic conditions, and cultures.

Having a perspective to see the world in a way different than ourselves is key to being successful, and continuously learning about our society and our world is critical.