The Strengths of People in Poverty

Willem E. Frankenhuis*, Daniel Nettle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)


On average, psychological variables are often statistically different in people living in poverty compared with people living in affluence. The default academic response to this pattern is often the deficit model: Poverty damages or impairs brain function, which leads to poor performance that only exacerbates the poverty. Deficits and damage are real phenomena. However, there are also other processes: People living in poverty may have made reasonable psychological responses to their circumstances or may have developed strengths that enhance their ability to cope with challenges in their lives. We illustrate these points by discussing the linked examples of time preference, early reproduction, and hidden talents. We argue for a balanced approach to the psychology of poverty that integrates deficit and strengths-based models. Future research could focus on the ways in which impairment and adaptation interact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-21
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes

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