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In this video, Chelsea talks about things we judge the poor for that rich people constantly get away with — from having multiple children to splurging on expensive electronics.



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Hey, guys.

It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet. And if you have not already, please click that Subscribe button and hit the Join button if you're feeling extra spicy to join our secret society.

But at minimum, subscribe. Support us. Love us.

We need it. And today, we are going to be talking about one of the subtopics within the world of finance and economics that compels me the most. It is one of the prominent reasons why talking about money in a transparent and empathetic way is so important to me.

Because often in our society, we have a very, very clear if unspoken, double standard between the behaviors, purchases, and lifestyle choices of the wealthy and the not wealthy. And we have seen this for years. Things that poor people get mocked for will become cool aesthetics on social media-- such as tiny homes, ripped clothes, or even substance use.

And not only are these stereotypes unfair, they're often untrue. And they tend to be characterized very differently depending on who does them. For example, the difference between self-care and laziness often just comes down to your income bracket.

And I'm particularly passionate about this topic, because as someone who used to be poor and is now wealthy, I see on an everyday basis and every aspect of my life, just how much financial privilege not only changes the options you are afforded, but the respect and the deference that your choices also receive. Not only am I able to do a lot more for myself and the people around me, my choices are almost inherently given a pass. Because I can afford to make them.

I waste plenty of money on my Starbucks. And although I don't enjoy avocado toast particularly, I do love other frivolous dining-out options. But no one's coming for me about them.

Because I just get to make whatever choices I want. So let's take a look at 10 things that poor people just can't catch a break for, which rich people get to indulge in undetected or even be praised for. Number one is being wasteful.

We love to criticize the environmental impact of things like convenience products, McDonald's wrappers, or fast fashion. But it seems like we are so often coming for the things that poor people use, or in the case of things like plastic straws, things that disabled people actually need. Now no one's lifestyle is 100% eco-friendly.

But trendy, eco-friendly options do tend to be more expensive. For example, you could pay close to $60 for a pack of four Stasher Bags. But when you're living paycheck to paycheck, it just makes sense to pay $5 for a box of 20 freezer-friendly Ziploc bags.

Or you could pay anywhere from $10 to $15 for zero waste bars of shampoo and deodorant. But when you're scraping by, $6 for a jumbo bottle of Herbal Essences probably suits your life better, despite the fact that it comes in a plastic bottle. And in reality, wealthy people are often just passively making much more wasteful lifestyle choices without ever getting called on it.

Take flying, for example-- it is prohibitively expensive to many people. And yet in 2018, commercial airlines burned $94 billion gallons of fossil fuel globally. People who can't afford to fly get to treat driving like a small sacrifice to help the planet, while a lot of poor families have to drive simply because it's the only feasible option.

But poor people also aren't driving as much as the wealthy or even the middle class. Statista estimates that 33% of American households have one vehicle. And 8% of households have none.

The remaining 59% have two or more vehicles. And there's a positive correlation between income and mileage driven. Wealthier people drive more on average.

Basically, the wealthier you are, the more options you have to be eco-friendly, and the less you are stigmatized for your non eco-friendly choices. Number two is quitting toxic work environments. Back to me and how fabulous I am-- no, but once I did Tweet virally that a lot of things that we frame in our culture as being courageous are just really a question of having money, like for example, calling off a wedding or distancing yourself from toxic family members, or quitting a job.

All of these things can be representations of you really taking a stand for yourself and setting healthy boundaries. But they're also usually just a reflection of the financial flexibility that you have. Because when you have a substantial enough savings or income to quit your job and potentially go without income for months, you are going to be much more empowered to be selective about the kind of treatment or workload you'll put up with.

And there is no shortage of advice out there about how to quit a toxic work environment, including on this very channel. And yes, doing so in the right circumstances can be incredibly empowering. But for poor people, leaving even the most exploitative job is just seen as foolish, not empowering.

Ironically, a 2019 study found that people of lower incomes are less likely to be satisfied with most aspects of their job quality, while richer people get to toss off the shackles of their 9:00 to 5:00, eat, pray, love style. And poorer people have to feel like they're putting themselves and their families at risk for even wanting to quit. Number three is having multiple children.

All right guys, let's crack those knuckles. Let's warm up those fingers. Let's start fighting in the comments about this, because I know this topic always sets a certain contingent off.

But let me be crystal clear on this one. When it comes to the class-based discrepancy by which we assess people's lifestyle, choices, and behavior, few distill this concept down more than having children, especially multiple children. Whether it is on message boards, in political discourse, on social media, in our pop culture, there is a very commonly and deeply held belief that people below a certain income level should not have children.

While for wealthy families, and I will quote one of my favorite books on the subject of studying insane rich people, Primates of Park Avenue, having multiple children in extremely expensive areas, especially in households where only one partner is working, is seen as a status symbol. But this discrepancy in framing is problematic for several reasons. First off, it ignores the fact that large families are not even actually that common anymore.

Fewer Americans even want two or more kids, whereas in the 1940s, most people considered four or more kids the ideal. So a poor person having even two children can now easily be treated as having a lot of kids. And this has even been part of the highly offensive welfare queen trope, in which poor women, usually women of color, are accused of having as many children as possible simply for their benefits.

Now let us be clear about the fact that having several children while not making enough to support them financially, is not some one-way ticket to a glamorous lifestyle. Most people who benefit from social subsidy programs work. These supplemental resources, whether it is actual money or food stamps or other similar programs, is often just a result of having to supplement large corporations, Walmart being the biggest, who simply don't pay their employees a living wage.

When we think about who we're subsidizing when it comes to social programs, we often think that we're subsidizing the individual. When at scale, we are actually more accurately subsidizing the corporations who can then get away with not paying their workers a sustainable wage, and beyond the fact that receiving social benefits is usually a necessity for people who do actually work, the entire concept of helping to subsidize families arises from the reality that in order to function and prosper, society needs people to have children. My husband and I are child-free by choice, which means we are indebted to the people around us who are having children.

Those children are the ones who are going to be not only keeping the economy going, but taking care of my husband and I when we're in our older age. The US is seeing population growth on a year over year decline. And the fact that fewer and fewer people are having children is a massive economic problem.

So subsidizing families to encourage people to have more children is just good practice. It's why literally, every other developed country in the world has a much more comprehensive maternity leave than we do. If we continue to treat having children as a privilege that only the ultra rich should be able to afford, we will just continue on a downward slope in population growth, which will lead to serious social and economic problems.

By the way, for all of the anti-immigration trolls in the comment section and I know some of you guys love to hang out on YouTube, I would suggest googling the extent to which our country's economy has relied on immigration as a supplement to population growth over the last 25 years. But yet for as much as we stigmatize lower income folks for having children, in other circumstances, we often glamorize it, even to the grotesque extent of 19 Kids and Counting, which I'm sorry. Listen-- people can have as many children as they want.

But 19, I don't know. Maybe see a therapist instead of having more kids after the 14th child. And even for the upper middle class and above families who are deemed deserving of having children, we often follow the first child with questions about when the second or third are coming along, rather than interrogating ourselves as a society, why we provide so little resources to support families overall.

Our framing of having children as a luxury product isn't just enormously classist. It's also shooting ourselves in the foot economically. Number four is buying big toys for the family.

Now one thing we love judging poor people about is the things that they own. We make an automatic assumption that if a poor person has it, they don't deserve it. Now not only does this ignore that these items could be gifts.

They could have been purchased secondhand or at a discount. They could have been acquired at a time when their income was higher or any other Number of possible origin stories, it drives home a continuing theme in which poor people are essentially not viewed as being deserving of enjoying themselves, especially because many of these big toys are actually extremely economical for families who can't afford to take vacations or put their children into organized sports and activities. For example, a 6 by 10 inflatable pool can be purchased for anywhere from $100 to $200, which gives a family multiple whole summers of swimming in their backyard, as opposed to paying for a plane or even a road trip to a sunny destination for a short vacation.

Or you can get a backyard trampoline for around $300, which again, lasts for years, and gives your kids plenty to do at home. If you compare that to taking something like dance classes, even one class a week can hit $300 in tuition costs by halfway through the school year. And similarly to getting angry at poor people for owning anything that gives them a moment of pleasure, we also tend to get down on them for owning any kind of tech device beyond I assume, a rotary phone.

We love talking about how poor people have the latest iPhone. And honestly, even outside of poor people, whether you are making a thoughtful critique of capitalism or complaining about bills that you cannot avoid, someone is always likely to chime in about how you're doing that from a brand new iPhone. But even if it's not the newest model, if you're not essentially using like a Nokia brick that has Snake on it, someone's going to jump down your throat about how you should be having your phone.

Now aside from all of the other assumptions which could not be accurate, as with the previous point, there are many ways of acquiring tech devices that do not require paying full retail. Mobile phones in 2021 are a necessity for key things in life, including socialization and job mobility. You cannot get most jobs without a phone number.

And it helps to have something from which you can email, phone people, browse for jobs, complete your tasks, and yes sometimes-- shocker-- waste time on social media, Yes, poor people deserve to go on fund websites too. It's also worth remembering that for many low income homes, a smartphone is the family computer. So not only is it essential for the adult in the house, it might also be essential for a child to complete their homework, communicate with their teacher or in the age of COVID, go to class.

I actually think in some ways, the most powerful litmus test for me in knowing that I actually was a wealthy person was last year when I dropped my phone in the laundry room, and all of a sudden it started making this horrible screeching noise. There was like flashing lights on the screen. It was like, I have never seen a device that broken.

I thought it was going to explode. And I literally didn't even think twice about it. I ran-- I had to actually on my computer, look up the directions by foot to the Apple store, write them down on a piece of paper, and ran my ass to the Apple store, bought myself a new iPhone without even thinking about it.

And at no point in that situation was I stressed out about the finances of it. I was mostly concerned that I wouldn't get to the iPhone store before it closed. That's it.

I was like, wow looking back, that means you are well off. If you do not care about having to financially replace the phone, if that's like it sucks-- I wouldn't love to do it. I'm not doing that for fun.

But if that's not your concern, that's when you're wealthy. And it just goes to show the level of carelessness that we afford wealthy people when it comes to this stuff, versus the level of judgment that we give towards poor people. Number six is drug and/or alcohol use.

Now this one can be dicey, because some drugs are often stigmatized across the board. However it is undeniably more stigmatized any time a user also happens to be poor. It basically is a joke now, but think of all the times you've heard someone discourage you from giving money to an unhoused person, because they're just going to append it on drugs and alcohol-- on your way to happy hour, you effing hypocrite.

However 2016 research has found that rich people actually tend to drink more heavily and more frequently than working class people. I mean no surprise-- booze is expensive. And plenty of celebrities have gone through public struggles with addiction.

People like Robert Downey jr. and Rob Lowe have famously gone through public battles with substance use disorder. And while yes, snaps to them on their well deserved recovery, people in poverty don't often get a chance to recover. A person who makes $20,000 a year is 1/3 less likely to recover from cocaine addiction than someone who makes $70,000 a year.

And besides the social stigmas, there's also legal stigmas. There is no better poster child for this than Ethan Couch, better known as the offender whose lawyer popularized the term affluenza, when under the influence of drugs. While driving under the influence, he lost control of his vehicle and killed four people, injuring nine more.

Couch's sentence of 10 years probation was regarded by many as extremely light. And in fact, at the time of filming this video, he has already been charged with violating his probation twice. But broadly, poor people who use drugs are targeted more harshly by the legal system.

As of 2020, of the 2.2 million Americans incarcerated, nearly half are non-violent drug offenders. Poor people are already more likely to end up in prison too. Because people who make less than 150% of the federal poverty level are 15 times more likely to be charged with a felony.

Of course, this also tends to fall along race lines as well. But it's important to remember that cost alone is often a prohibiting factor in people seeking justice or being treated as criminals in the first place. Number seven is hypersexuality and sex work.

Embracing one sexuality and feeling empowered with how they wield it can be a liberating choice for people of all backgrounds. But it is incredible how differently we treat people who engage in these choices based on their financial status. In 2020, actress Bella Thorne publicly joined OnlyFans and said that her intention was to quote help with the stigma behind sex.

By now, you probably know that Bella is joining up OnlyFans was controversial and allegedly resulted in OnlyFans changing some of its policies around payment and maximum tip amounts, resulting in worse payment terms for sex workers using the site, although the site has denied that she was the reason. However, this is far from the first time sex workers have been screwed over by rich women. In the 2010s, pole dancing became a popular fitness trend, with many proponents calling it empowering.

However, many enthusiasts also tried to distance themselves from strippers, while empowering themselves through the style with hashtags like #notastripper accompanying many of the social media posts about pole fitness. And by the way, for those keeping score at home, home stripper pole setups often cost between $300 and $400. And of course, the social stigma around these things is only heightened when you factor in race.

For example, women of color, particularly black women being judged incredibly harshly for aesthetics and behaviors that break the internet when Kim Kardashian chooses to do it. Number eight is liking fast food or junk food. Much like with wastefulness, people love to pick apart the dietary choices of poor people, because junk food is often associated with being as uneconomical as it is wasteful.

But when mainstream foodie color really started to take off and hit the middle class in the last decade, creators like Epic Meal Time or Matty Matheson achieved mega stardom for all of their various calorie-busting fast food-inspired creations. And you have people like former Simpsons showrunner Bill Oakley, who is now famous for having various fast food items from around the world sent to him to review, or the internet's beloved, Reviewbrah. There's also the rising popularity of Muckbang content in the US, from which the top creators are making some serious cash.

Now on the one hand, you could say that our love affair with junk food in this society is helping to destigmatize some of these food choices for the poor among us. But that connection doesn't really seem to be happening. Because it is still as popular as ever to make those posts about how you can buy a bag of rice and beans and some bananas and feed your family for a month on $1, as opposed to buying a Big Mac.

Now of course, all of those posts don't take into account things like cooking and prep time, the ability to store food for longer periods of time, things like food deserts, or the fact that many low income folks don't even live in a place with a kitchen. But we'll put all of that to the side and get back to how we perceive the food itself. Even if poor people are no less likely to consume fast food than middle class and rich people and research shows that it's actually fairly even across the board, they are still perceived as consuming more.

Local governments have tried to place increasingly tight restrictions on fast food restaurants. And the limiting of junk food and sugary drinks purchased by SNAP recipients has been floated in several jurisdictions over the years. Number nine is laziness.

And now in general, we are much too obsessed with hustle culture. Speaking generally, we could all afford to scale it back a bit when it comes to overworking ourselves. But it is important that we confront ourselves with the question of who gets to be lazy in our society.

Because it is a common conception not only that poor people are lazy, but also that they are poor because they are lazy. When it comes to physical activity for example, it has been long believed that people of higher socioeconomic status are more physically active than those of lower status. However a 2016 meta analysis found that it's a bit more complicated than that.

For one thing, poorer people who are less active tended to be so because they didn't have as good access to parks, gyms, pools, or other such facilities. They also found that while they tended to be less physically active in their leisure times, this is because they tended to work more physical jobs. You cannot blame someone who spends the majority of their working hours in high physical stress, on-their-feet jobs for wanting to just sit down on a couch and chill out in their free time.

And of course, when a rich person makes that same choice, it is perceived as self-care. Number 10 is looking good or looking messy. And this is just one of those situations where poor people cannot win.

Since the days of heroin chic, high fashion has long been inspired by poverty. It's why companies like Nordstrom can get away with a $530 shoe that looks like it's falling apart and taped together. What the hell?

Of course, this is the same mentality that made dumpster diving in tiny houses go mainstream. When a poor person does it, it's yucky. But when a rich person does it, it's a cool aesthetic.

Similarly to a no-spend month, it is a sweet personal finance hack for those that can afford discretionary spending. It is just how you have to live every month if you're on a super tight income. But the thing is poor people also can't seem to get away with the opposite.

When they look good, they're judged harshly for it as well. And we judge people by how they dress. This is especially true in scenarios where a good impression is key, like a job interview.

For example, studies show that men in suits tend to be perceived more positively than men in jeans. And women tend to be perceived more positively when wearing makeup. Except that quote "poverty with pretty nails" has pretty much become a trope at this point, with the cliche question being how can she afford to get her nails done if she's so poor.

In fact, spending and really not that much, on nails, makeup, and accessories is often a way for poor people to feel empowered while making a good impression. We are constantly admonishing poor people to find ways to better their station in life and to move up corporate ladders, but yet, totally undermine the extent to which present yourself in a certain way-- having a working smartphone, dressing sharply, being clean and well-groomed, having enough free time to be responsive during an interview process, are all key to being perceived in a way that will allow you to advance. When poor people look sloppy, that's a judge in time.

When they look fancy, well, you know that's a judge and time too. Ultimately, I think the most compelling thing about these discrepancies and how we perceive behaviors is that it reveals the extent to which our criticism of the actual thing itself is pretty damn hollow. For example, if a poor person can get away with posting their cute top they bought from Zara or their day's Starbucks drink, which again-- no judgment.

We're not saying that there's anything wrong with these items. We only take them to task when a poor person is doing them, because we fundamentally believe that only the wealthy should be able to have any kind of discretionary spending or joy or even in certain cases, opportunities for advancement, such as having a working smartphone. Ultimately, one of the best phrases I think, on this subject that sums it up very well is that old saying "the only time you should ever be looking at your neighbor's bowl, is to make sure that he has enough." Policing each other, especially lower income folks, over their various spending choices, is just an effective way to distract from the real societal ills that are keeping us all down, such as Jeff Bezos bringing his extremely divorced man energy to space for 5 seconds, while his employees have to urinate in bottles on the job because they don't get enough time for bathroom breaks.

Let's point the fingers where they deserve to be pointed, and that's on the stuff that's super rich people are doing. As always, guys, thank you for watching. And don't forget to hit the Subscribe button, and to come back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for new and awesome videos.