I originally posted this question in Skeptics.SE.

My humanities teacher was apart of a Wikipedia project with a class describing the "discrimination against social precarity", using a newly-coined term "poorphobia" (pauvrophobie in French). I looked into the sources in that article and found that the organisation Agir tous pour la dignité Quart monde (ATD), or International Movement ATD Fourth World, a non-profit organisation that aims to eradicate chronic poverty worldwide, was responsible for its coinage according to this article by Le Figaro. Because of their efforts, the French bill 2016-832 was ratified, modifying both the penal code and labour code to include the criterion of social precarity.

I fail to find any viable sources of this "poorphobia", be it legal cases or in the news. I also don't see any difference between the discrimination against the poor and impoverished and classism, discrimination on the basis of social class.

The aforementioned Wikipedia article, describes this by providing some examples:

Stereotypes of the poor

  • They all rely on social benefits
  • The poor consume a lot of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs
  • The poor increase our deficit budget
  • The poor cannot integrate into society

Source: WP article section "Stéréotypes et préjugés à propos des pauvres"

Actions taken to manifest this discrimination

  • At work: an employer, seeking to fill a position, reads through CVs and hires the jobseeker who lives in a famous district instead of the ordinary person. The employer hesitates to hire this impoverished person because he's badly dressed.
  • Housing: a landlord refuses to rent out his apartment to a poor person, because of an unjustified suspicion of their not being able to pay.
  • In the street: a pedestrian actively avoids/evades a homeless person

Source: WP article section "Les actions menées pour déterminer les formes et manifestations de cette discrimination"

Because this stigmatisation of is written into law as a type of discrimination of a social group (like racism or homophobia), it's being applied into law.

If a person is victim of this discrimination, the perpetrator can be sentenced to 3 years in prison and 45,000 EUR in fines. The goal of this law is to advance equal rights and protect those who are financially unfortunate, to be able to get housing, employment, and to be in the same conditions as everyone else.

Source: WP article section "L'application de la loi"

Is "poorphobia" an actual type of social discrimination in this day and age? Is there any evidence of this taking place institutionally or socially? Is it any different from classism?

  • 8
    But those examples do not demonstrate any sort of "poorphobia". E.g in the US, at least, wealthy people may not choose to wear expensive clothes &c because they have no need to impress people. Refusing to rent to someone if you believe they can't pay the rent is merely a rational business decision, while avoidance of homeless persons has more to do with the likelihood of being asked for money than poverty - one would avoid e.g Krishna cultists for the same reason.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 3:28
  • 1
    @jamesqf, Re "may not choose to wear expensive clothes": the wealthy may have that choice, but the poor generally do not have the choice of wearing expensive clothes. Employers always have the choice of not discriminating. Re "avoidance of homeless persons": the very presumption of that likelihood is prejudicial -- unless an avoider consistently goes to the same lengths to shun donation seekers of their own or higher social classes.
    – agc
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 6:56
  • French WP via Google Translate gives a rather different first example: "In the tests conducted by ATD Fourth World, we have noted various forms of discrimination for social precariousness: At hiring: a person posing as a poor address his CV , in front of an ordinary person, it will be the CV of the person who is of a more affluent environment that will be retained. An employer is reluctant to hire a precarious man or woman because he is not dressed properly." (continued...)
    – agc
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:22
  • (cont.) That is the jobseekers are in fact agents of ATD attempting to audit discrimination, one dressed middle class, the other less genteel; and in another instance, one jobseeker using a feigned address from a poor neighborhood, the other a more upscale one.
    – agc
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 7:26
  • @jamesqf Well the question is: what does count as "poorphobia"? Where is line where judging someone by their wealth or social status is considered illegal and punishable by law? Are there any examples of such a law being applied in another country? It's a serious question because this criterion of social discrimination has the same legal weight as racism and homophobia.
    – user18322
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 9:12

2 Answers 2


Phobia is, by definition, any opposition to something. Usually it's a fear, but it it does not have to be. As an example, the hydrophobic layer of the cell membrane is not a layer that is afraid of water. It simply is averse to it.

I would argue that in order to "diagnose" an opposition as a phobia however, it is reasonable to include the requirement that the opposition is irrational or that it impedes the ability of the person to function.

Fear of heights, for instance, might impede a person's ability to clean their gutters. A fear of people, or significant opposition to dealing with them, would impede a person's ability to integrate with society.

If someone is judging a person by the idea that they look poor, this can result in a number of problems, including discrimination against the person and potentially lost opportunities. For added justification, this phobia has a name: peniaphobia.

  • 4
    Many "phobias" in social and discriminatory context strongly deviate from the Greek root, and medical definitions. "Homophobia", for example, has almost nothing to do with actual fear of gays/lesbian, but is actually a contempt or even hatred against persons who are different in some way.
    – Erik Hart
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 16:58
  • 1
    Again, phobia does not mean fear, but any opposition to something. Therefore homophobia does not deviate from the original meaning of the root. Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 17:00
  • @Erik Hart: But the hatred is almost always a consequence of fear, Especially with gay people: it's perhaps a truism that the most extreme homophobes are those who are reacting against their own homosexual desires.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 18:43

There may be some real fears about poor people, such as of antisocial behavior or a tendency for violent crime.

The above stereotypes reflect something different, frequently present in media and political debate: it's a strategy sometimes called "downward envy", the suggestion that poor people still live too good, or that a poor life should not be possible on welfare, but only under harsh "working poor" conditions. It usually comes with suggestions, or open demands, to cut welfare, or harass poor people when applying for welfare.

Typical propaganda of this kind on TV, for example, world portray fat, lazy welfare recipients, smoking and drinking all the time and doing nothing useful. In opposition, equally poor people, who work like 60 or 70 hours a week in low paid jobs, are depicted as "heroes".

Intention is on one side to cut welfare expenses, on the other side, to force people into any poorly paid job, and, by forcing huge masses of poor into such work, also put pressure on wages of higher paid jobs, because the increased amount of workers reduces their price. Simple market rule.

It's also a divisive strategy: instead of fighting for higher wages, the middle and working lower classes are instructed to trample on somebody below them in social hierarchy. In this way, "poorphobia" works similar to other forms of discrimination, such as racism and xenophobia, if these are applied systematically.

"Poorphobia", in a meaning that poor people have trouble to get jobs or housing, can be a result, but is probably not the primary intention.

  • 1
    In my experience, the depiction of two sorts of poor people is far from being propaganda. It's simply the way things are. There are plenty of poor people of either sort, and of course others somewhere inbetween.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 25, 2017 at 18:38
  • They all exist, but my point is that poor people working that hard, for barely surviving, are more fools, rather than heroes or role models. And they support exploitation and very low wages this way, actually damaging others: Those living on welfare, AND those in regular jobs who get less money and security, because there's an army of potential workers outside, waiting to replace them for less.
    – Erik Hart
    Commented Nov 26, 2017 at 0:24

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