For the story I'm planning out, the setting is on one of the worlds of a technologically advanced extraterrestrial race well-known for their economic infrastructure, which includes incredibly efficient logistics networks that are capable of transporting matter across continents and between neighboring planets at low cost. The availability of resources for those who are truly in need is practically a guarantee; charity is considered to be a respectable, but not at all mandatory, action, and many of the largest companies -- alongside the tens of thousands of smaller businesses and wealthy individuals -- are generally happy to contribute. Charities determine who gets what, and for how long. Generally, if the recipients are able to work, but don't have jobs, they are given supplies so long as they are actively seeking out employment. Various safeguards are in place to assure that nobody slips through the cracks, while simultaneously ensuring the system isn't cheated.
The problem that I am facing is the issue of poverty in such conditions: I had imagined the main character's backstory as one of poverty, coming from a very poor family, without considering the exact details as to how that's possible in their society. With faster-than-light communications and transportation, coupled with the availability of both work and affordable goods, and the presence of such vast amounts of resources for the genuinely impoverished ("genuinely" as determined by the agents who determine eligible recipients), is there any reasonable way to remain in poverty?
I've thought long and hard on this, and the only justifiable answers I've been able to come up with are:
- if a frontier world or a distant colony is outside the usual logistics routes;
- if some physical disruption (i.e., debris fields, singularities, raiders, etc.) were to cut off routes;
- if individuals are too stubborn to receive aid, but aren't capable of holding down a sufficient job, either.