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Scarcity and poverty and thinking straight


"Scarcity: The true cost of not having enough" (Mullainathan and Shafir)


This is one of those books that explains everything about something. It shows how not having enough of what you need to live (money, relationships, shelter, purpose) causes so much background stress that it takes up all your mental bandwidth. You literally don’t have enough brain capacity to think straight.


This is why poverty is so corrosive. Being hungry is stressful: worrying about meals means you don’t have the mental space to think about anything else. So, you are more likely to make choices which make things worse. More likely to be seduced into taking a payday loan “For life’s little emergencies”, or to buy from Perfect Home on sky-high interest rates. And these sharks prey on scarcity: they know which buttons to press. You get into a vicious spiral of poor choices, even less money, increased stress and it gets even harder to think straight.


Our aim is for the social supermarket to provide a space from the stress of scarcity. Having access to food, to relationships, to learning and volunteering means that people are better able to think straight and to discover that, given the chance, they are strong and capable.

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