I'd always known poverty was more than just a lack of money. But I was never sure what else contributed to poverty. The type of poverty I witness seems to be different in every country I travel to. Although I'm now comfortable defining poverty.
Poverty is a lack of purchasing power, opportunity, resources, knowledge and access, political power, and will.
Lack of purchasing power: This is poverty in the traditional sense. Essentially, a lack of money. Not everyone has the means by which to acquire resources they need. This is only a part of the equation.
Lack of opportunity: many people in developing nations are college-educated, but simply don't have a job market to work in. This is why "brain drain" occurs. Imagine putting in the time and effort to earn a college degree, only to graduate into a market that doesn't support the infrastructure for the types of jobs you are looking for. Welcome to poverty.
Lack of resources: Even in developed nations, resources are not distributed evenly and this causes disparity between different parts of the country. California is the 5th largest economy in the world. The United States is the 4th. Wow.
Lack of knowledge and access: When working on my project this past August, I realized that many rural citizens just don't have knowledge we assume people have. This makes sense. Not everyone is forced to attend grade school. Not every grade school has usable and up to date educational material. Not everyone has Google.
Lack of political power: A small nation with a small army seems to be poor at being able to hold it's ground against larger nations that bully it. Everyone knows the United States can be a real bully, however other nations can be just as bad. For example, Sweden preaches neutrality and peace, but the country dumps toxic e-waste on the shores of Ghana (along with America and Thailand) because they know the politicians who run the country won't do anything about it. Even when Ghanaians want to, they just don't have the backing.
Lack of will: I believe emotional state is important in giving individuals the driving force to pull themselves into change. I would say 99% of people are poor in this area. When someone isn't in control of their emotions, important aspects of people's lives like relationships, health, finances, and mental state, fall apart. Even though American GDP is the highest in the world, the stress level associated with jobs are also high As Stanford researchers have shown, Stress is murderous. In this way, America can be poor. Dirt poor.
Surprisingly, some of the "poorest" places in the world are also the happiest. Although many developing nations might not be "rich" in purchasing power capabilities, they clearly balance out the equation by making it up in other areas. Where we have high income and stress, they have low income and happiness. Where a developing nation has little resources and an abundance of emotional energy, a developed nation has plenty of resources and a scarcity of energy. Think about people in the media who seem to be very rich (in terms of money) but seem simultaneously poor in other regards--be it character, emotional state, etc.
Since I'm positing an equation, the opposite equation would also have to hold true. If wealth is the opposite of poverty, then wealth is an abundance of purchasing power, opportunity, resources, knowledge and access, political power, and will. Make sure to not get greedy with one type of wealth and lose out on another.