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There is a huge difference. Poor people in America have a much greater ability to change their circumstances - public education, needs based financial aid for education, job placement programs, military service, etc. Poor people in third world countries generally have almost no way of doing so.

True, but it seems to me that Scalzi's article was focused on what it feels like to be poor, not on the actual objective reality, etc., etc.

This. Nothing in the essay says “being poor is thinking that absolutely nobody in the world is worse off than you are”.

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