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Poverty, Welfare and Power

Poverty, Welfare and Power

Author: Paul Hannan

Identify the various types of poverty, welfare, and power, and their impact on society. 

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Triangle Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on poverty, welfare, and power. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward, to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.


So let's look at poverty, welfare, and power-- pretty big, broad topics at the core of sociology.

So first, poverty. We're going to look at three different types of poverty. Poverty really has to do with a couple different things. So the first thing is relative poverty. That's being poor relative to another. So if you live in a really affluent neighborhood, you might see yourself as relatively poor because you look around you and you see everyone else having a lot of money and a lot of nice cars.

But you're actually not poor. It's who you're comparing yourself to. Many people here in America, we, as a society are so-- have so much financial wealth that when we see what is considered poor here, well, globally, those people maybe aren't considered poor, because it just depends on who you're comparing yourself to.

Now, functional poverty is a different type of poverty. And this is saying people that are poor, they really can only have the basics. And the basics here are shelter and food.

The last one is absolute poverty. Here, poverty is very extreme. And their poverty is so extreme that they're actually living in danger of dying. People in absolute poverty are on the edge of having their lives terminated, of having their lives end because of poverty, and because of the dangers around poverty.

Now, if you look at the impact of poverty, relative poverty will impact you a little bit. Functional poverty will impact you more. And absolute poverty will impact you even more.

But what do I mean by "impact?" Well, there are a couple ways that poverty can impact you. And it can impact you a lot of different ways. But I'm just going to highlight four different, important ways that poverty can impact you.

The first one is health. So poor people, people that are living in poverty, they don't have access to health care. And the health care they have access to isn't as good. And so, in general, their physical health is not as good. In fact, you can look at nutritionally, if you're living on a really limited income, you're maybe not getting the right balance of fruits and vegetables, and grains, and meats that you should be having. And so, your physical body is suffering.

Along with that, your mental health can be suffering because poverty can damage you. It's a lot of work, and you're working hard to stay alive and stay a part of society. And that can have an effect on your physical well-being, on your physical health, and your psychological health.

Another thing you can look at for an impact of poverty is life expectancy. And of course, this ties into that first point of health. But it's important to note that it's not just that you-- well, you're a little bit less healthy, but you know, you basically live the same length. No. If you live in poverty, you are not expected to live as long. Your life expectancy is considerably lower. In fact, sometimes as much as 20 to 30 years difference from living in poverty in one society versus living in wealth.

Another impact of poverty is education and literacy. Again, all these things play together. But if you're living in poverty, it's hard to get a good education. And maybe it's hard because of the physical health of your body, or the mental health, the issues that you're going through. Maybe you're just missing school because you have to work at nights, and so you can't do your homework.

In fact, there is some data out there that says that people that live in poverty actually miss more school. And it's not clear exactly why they miss more school. But kids that live in poverty miss more school. And so, their education is suffering. And with that, you're much less likely then to be able to be a good reader, or a reader at all.

The last thing we're looking at here as an impact of poverty is homelessness. Poverty can make someone have to be without a home. And that can have a lot of impact on these individuals.

Now, let's look at two different basic ways that we can deal with poverty. So the first thing we have, individual welfare. So when you have poverty, you want to make sure that your society doesn't have that much poverty. We want to make sure there's a minimum quality of life.

So how do you do that? Well, you actually give support to individual citizens. So there, you see on the screen, you give support. You give money. You give food stamps. You give something to these people that are really suffering in society, and you raise them up, and you bring them up in society.

Now, corporate welfare is actually when you're giving support to private businesses. And kind of the argument of that is when you have you at the bottom there, when you give money to the top, and it drops to the bottom and disseminates, because the people at the top spend more money. It Trickles down. If the businesses are doing well, they buy more things and they sell more things, and they have more, than they can hire more people. And that will trickle down to the bottom of society. And that will be what ends up raising the bar in dealing with poverty.

Now, I just want to leave you with three terms here that look at global poverty. And the first one is the feminization of poverty. And this is the idea that there's a higher proportion of females in poverty than ever before. And this is happening on a global stage. So across the world, females, all of a sudden-- relatively sudden, I should say-- you're much more likely to be living in poverty and dealing with poverty if you're a female.

Also there, we have colonial power and imperial power. Now, these two terms are kind of historically based. So a colonial power is a nation that gained power, or gains power, through the use of colonialism. So colonialism is when a nation develops. They go to a country, and they start to dominate and extract resources. And they specifically though, they send people there to settle and live there.

Now, imperial power, nations gain power through the use of imperialism. And imperialism and colonialism are very similar. You have a nation going out and going to another nation, and exploiting them, and exercising their power over them, and taking resources away from that native group. But there's no-- there's no real settlement there. It's purely the exercise of power.

So you might be saying, well, how do these deal with poverty? Well, if you look at the current global stratification, the current inequality between nations, colonial powers and imperial powers are nations that are still wealthy today. And nations that were victims or subject to these two terms, these two times, they are the poor nations in the world.

So today's takeaway message-- first, we looked at three different types of poverty. Relative poverty, which is when you're comparing yourself to another one and you're considered poor. Functional poverty, when you're really missing the basics-- or sorry, when you only have the basics of surviving, and that's basically food and shelter.

And then there's absolute poverty. And this is the extreme form of poverty, where people are actually living in danger. Their life is in danger because of poverty.

Then we looked at individual welfare, which is when you give support to individual citizens to ensure a minimum quality of life. And we looked at corporate welfare, and that's when you're giving money or support to a private business. We also looked at homelessness, and those are members of society who do not have adequate housing.

Lastly, we looked at imperialist power, colonial power, and feminization of poverty. So the feminization of poverty is this shift in the demographics that you see a higher portion of females now in power than-- now in poverty than ever before. Then we looked at colonial power. And that's data that nations have gained power through the use of colonialism. Or imperial power, where nations have gained power through the use of imperialism.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully, you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Absolute Poverty

A form of poverty that is so extreme that individuals suffering from absolute poverty live in danger.

Colonial Power

Power gained through colonial settlement.

Corporate Welfare

Aid or tax breaks to corporations with the hopes that they create jobs which trickle down to individuals.

Feminization of Poverty

A shift in the demographics of poverty in which we see a higher proportion of females in poverty than before.

Functional Poverty

A form of poverty in which a person can only meet their basic, functional needs of food and shelter with little else.


A social phenomenon describing members of society who do not have adequate housing.

Imperial Power

Power gained through imperial expansion, through establishing economic control over a territory for the purpose of exploitation or resource extraction.

Individual Welfare

Aid to individuals directly.

Relative Poverty

A form of poverty where one person is poor relative to another.