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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Why Meaningful, Personal Relationships Can Ward Off A Certain Kind Of Poverty

Social poverty describes people without significant, trusting relationship. It sometimes goes hand-in-hand with economic poverty.

Being short on food or rent money are symptoms of poverty. Going without close friendships or being estranged from family are symptoms of what’s known as social poverty.

Professor Sarah Halpern-Meekin explains the dangers of being socially poor.

 Interview Highlights: Sarah Halpern-Meekin on...

…what social poverty is: “People in our lives can be helpful to us financially with that loan, with that sofa to crash on. But that's different than the way that those relationships matter to us interpersonally. So, having a shoulder to cry on, having somebody who you can trust, who you can be vulnerable with and who you know will show up for you, who will be there, time and again when you need them. Those dependable, high-quality trusting relationships that persist over time are really important. And those people don't have to be in the room with you for them to be in your lives. Knowing that they exist, that you could pick up the phone; that can be enough to ward off social poverty. So it's not about having people in the room with you. It's about making sure that those relational resources exist in your life when you need them.”

…what happens when people have to undergo transitions like career, parenthood, all at once: “If you're still trying to figure out who you are, what career path you're going to follow, whether that's going to lead you to go back to school, you're still trying to get on your feet financially. Your inner romantic partnership that you're hopeful about but that isn't on firm footing yet maybe because it's just a young relationship, and then you add parenthood on top of all of that. There are so many transitions that many of the parents I've met are trying to tackle all at the same time and that can make each of those transitions that much harder because you're juggling so many balls in the air all at once.”

…the importance of trust: “When you're in a relationship, you need to be able to believe that this person is going to act with your best interests in mind, and that involves knowing each other well enough to know what one another thinks is in your best interest. Right? You have to know a person to know what their values are and what their expectations are. People don't just trust each other automatically. They really need to get to know each other and then really need to behave in ways that continually reinforce that their trust is well-placed.”

Sarah Halpern-Meekin's book is called Social Poverty: Low-Income Parents and the Struggle for Family and Community TiesListen to her entire 'Think' conversation here.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.