The Public Interest

The behavioral aspects of poverty

Isabel V. Sawhill

Fall 2003

IN a famous exchange between Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald is reputed to have said, “The rich are different from the rest of us,” to which Hemingway replied, “Yes, I know, they have more money.” Liberals have long contended that Hemingway had it right. There is nothing wrong with the poor that a little more money wouldn’t cure. This view is, I believe, profoundly misguided. Money can alleviate the harsh conditions of poverty, but unless it is used to leverage changes in behavior, it will have little lasting effect.

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