Why scarcity shapes our lives in profound ways


Making do with less, can make you less, according to Princeton psychology professor Eldar Shafir. Less insightful. Less forward-thinking. Less control. Scarcity can force the poor into making bad decisions that only make their lives worse. Today, professor Shafir warns poverty shapes our inner lives in ways both subtle and profound.

Maybe you're feeling the stress from not enough cash, or not enough time. But if you experience scarcity for any length of time, you may undergo real psychological change. And they're probably not changes for the better.

Most everyone has known times when they didn't have enough time, money, sleep or energy. The outer effects are fairly obvious, but you may be unaware of how much scarcity shapes our inner lives.


Today, as part of our Project Money Series, we're examining the psychological effects of doing without.

Last Friday financial specialist Gail Vaz-Oxlade took over the host chair for a special edition of The Current. She spoke with a number of people coping with financial scarcity. Amber Ashton of Barrie, Ontario explained she was carrying a debt load of $45,000. Not having enough weighs heavily on Amber Ashton. But it may be having more subtle and troubling effects as well.

Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University and co-author of the book Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. Eldar Shafir joined Anna Maria Tremonti from Princeton, New Jersey.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

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