Regarding the Poor Voters and Poverty Simulation

There are 6 key statistics which are displayed on the quarterly report screen - GDP, Health, Education, Unemployment, Crime, and Poverty. It’s rather easy to optimize these stats except for Unemployment. While other ‘too easy to min/max’ stats are also important, I want to address some points regarding the poverty as I see an identity crisis from it.

What is the poverty simulation? It may seem straightforward but the word ‘poverty level’ can have a number of different meanings. The most typical ones would be Absolute Poverty v. Relative Poverty. The former is about basic provisions while the latter tries to highlight social exclusions arising from inequality. In that sense, it seems the poverty simulation is closer to Absolute Poverty, judging by all those anti-poverty measures providing food, shelter, transportation, education, and healthcare. Also, the game has a separate ‘Equality’ simulation, which can have negative effects at low value.

So it may seem legit to adopt ‘Poverty = Absolute Poverty’ and ‘Equality = Relative Poverty’ equations. Then again, you should be able to notice that there’s no link between low income or the poor membership with the poverty simulation. You can still have some poverty even if low income is at decent level and the poor group just takes 0.1% of the electorates (no voter suppression here :P). In other words, people can still perceive poverty even if virtually nobody is classified as poor. This makes it sound more like Relative Poverty.

I guess most D4 players will find the poverty sim to be similar with the notion of Absolute Poverty since they can eradicate it only with those cheap basic provisions. I don’t really need a UBI or massive state schools/pensions/healthcare to do so. However, I think this is one of many reasons that make poverty too easy to solve. Players don’t have meaningful incentives to improve the Equality except for self-satisfaction (which plays a crucial part in this game though). Therefore I think the Poverty & Equality simulations worth revisiting and it would be nice if they can get a distinct roles.

other matters that will be discussed in this thread with comments that will come later

  • Uninhabited Lower-Class (literally zero people in the poor group)
  • The Elderly Poor
  • Is it way too easy to earn votes from the poor and thus making it harder for them to enter the middle class will make elections even easier to win?

About the third point.

There are some such paradoxes included in the game. If you keep crime high, conservatives will want you to be tough on crime. If you’re too tough on crime, crime will go down and you will lose their support, so you have to make sure a certain level of crime exists to keep getting their support. It might be the same with the poor, although Cliff spoke explicitly about the former.

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Yeah while you have to deal with various crime situations to remove approval penalties, more lax approaches on crime is better once crime rates fall down to zero, as long as you can keep these situations dormant. Currently players do something similar regarding poverty as pleasing the poor is easy while pleasing the middle class can cost massive tax revenues. I tend to just bump them up to the wealthy so that I can easily appease them with Gated Community but this is highly unrealistic in my eyes.

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I think you just saw how to co-opt all labour movements. Just make the poor rich. :joy:

I guess this is likely true though. (pleasing the poor is easy while pleasing the middle class can cost massive tax revenues.) This seems to be a real-world phenomena. It seems to be universal that voter turnout is higher in the middle income group than the poor, so cynically, a politician should spend more to make middle income voters happy than they should spend to make the poor happy.

In other words, solving poverty might be cheap, but its not a vote winner!

Its an interesting point because I should probably check the impact that income, and education have on voter turnout. This is also another reason why it might be interesting to have a ‘voting systems’ DLC. If there were policies that encourage everyone to vote (or even mandate it), then increased voting turnout by the poor could really change the electoral calculus…


Yeah it really is inefficient to appease the middle income voters compared to the poor or the wealthy ones. I do mostly agree to what was mentioned by Cliff but I’ll just add some points which have been mentioned in the original post as ‘to be written later.’

I see the bump-up of the poor and unhappy middle class as a nice dilemma. I like such changes of political landscapes, brought by increase of the disposable income thanks to social security policies. Though discrepancies between the targets of income policies and their approval responses can bring weird situations such as the poor voters getting angry when it won’t have any significant impact on the low income, I think it’s kinda unavoidable unless the gap between original v disposable income is added as an approval factor of individual voters. (and it can also be problematic as tax policies will have less nominal approval penalties) But still, I have some points to mention regarding this matter.

First of all, it is way too easy to eradicate the poverty. It doesn’t take that much to reduce the poverty stat down to zero, and the same goes for the poor group membership. Not to mention that there are a number of highly efficient anti-poverty or low-income boosting policies, even ones that aren’t targeting the poor can significantly boost incomes of large demographics (such as ones increasing state employees income & membership), making it possible for the poor voters to get into the middle income group quite easily. This may have been caused by either excessively high income boosts or way too small disposable income loss from taxation. However, introducing harsher disposable income loss to the income tax could cause poor-middle income reversal of disposable income distribution as low income benefits & middle income taxation will be applied to the original incomes.

Second, poverty eradication generally relies on residual welfare programs which is overpowered. Such welfare policies neither make the middle class dissatisfied nor have downsides such as administrative burdens of recipient selection process, boundary problems, or a failure to reach those in need. And there’s more. A nice example would be the Food Stamp policy. Its cost is linked with the poor voter membership but its anti-poverty effect and low income boost don’t disappear just because there’s no one to receive food stamps and no budget to execute. I do see that there’s little reason to address such matter, as this game effectively lacks economic recession or bust and thus such welfare programs will only be reactivated when the player deliberately decides to boost poverty. Nonetheless, I think it would be nice if such measures can have their limitations or downsides. Though I fear that it might cause oscillation of poor-middle income membership, I think those selective welfare policies need to lose their effects when people starts to get out of poverty. They should be seen as cost-efficient and temporary measures, not something gives permanent benefits.

Lastly, there are some sub-groups who aren’t likely to make their living without state provision but I can safely cut public spending. For example, at least some fraction of the retired must have been poor when they were younger and thus couldn’t afford private pension. These poor-retired people have little chance of living without state pension / state healthcare / social care but it seems they can. Because A) there’s no sub-division on the retired, B) retired people in general don’t have innately low original income, C) private healthcare doesn’t have any negative impact on retired income, and D) scrapping state pension will only replace state-to-retired transfer of income with middle income-to-retired (by private pension), causing decrease in neither retired income nor low income.
Another example would be the “invisible” unemployed. It’s quite easy to have a massive unemployment while playing but it seems there’s no income loss for having high unemployment. In fact, it’s the opposite - the poor will gain income from the unemployment benefits, which has low income boost proportional to the unemployment stat. Cutting the unemployment benefits will lead to a slight fall in the poor income but I still don’t need to address high unemployment or reconsider cutting benefits.

Addressing these matters might need way too much works but, in my opinion, there are some low-hanging fruits to start with. While adding poor_perc to food stamp effects as a second factor might need more experimentation, some adjustments will be the first step of addressing the #1. Also, if you are willing to just lump sub-group poverty together with its broader group, things might become simpler. Just adding poverty-to-retired income link could roughly work I guess. Or maybe add private healthcare-to-retired income link. Regarding unemployment, I guess wage-to-income effects also can have unemployment as a second factor.

I think I’ve written way too long ;D Thank you for reading a wall of text.


  1. disposable income boosts are way too strong in general (or income losses from taxation are way too weak)
  2. food stamp-like policies are broken and it’s not just a matter of adjusting numbers
  3. retired without state pension or unemployed without benefits don’t cause any poverty
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I had spoken earlier about people who’d become wealthy should be able to retain their wealth (even if I remove said policy, but if the state is giving you money and takes it away, your income would fall and your future wealth would be smaller, but it shouldn’t send you into poverty, but I don’t know enough about this to speak authoritatively), how food stamps should reduce food price and low food price should lead to a crisis.

Anyways you’re right about that there should be failures in welfare, maybe corruption should have an impact on GDP, which could indirectly effect welfare.

Additionally, if there is a broad and comprehensive enough welfare system we should see ultra-low or zero poverty, like we see in Scandinavia. America spends a lot of money on welfare too, but there are inefficiencies built into it by law (such as medicare unable to bargain lower prices for most drugs), I think if those legalized inefficiences can be fixed, poverty in America should fall further. Or if there are enough good salaries which prevent people falling to the rank of the working poor, reliant on welfare even though they are being paid.

I agree that welfare fraud is a thing and would be nice if the game can have stats or more events related to such. But I want to address false negative before false positive. A residual welfare system, which tries to help only those in need, can have false negative issues, failing to reach to the needy and creating blind spots to the system. Any attempt to cut the welfare costs by trying to select strictly those in need, in my opinion, might end up saving too much.

How would we end up saving too much? Wouldn’t we want welfare to be more efficient and effective for lower overall cost? Or am I missing something here?

Haven’t you heard about situations such as “now this benefit will be limited to those who have income below a threshold of $XXXXX” leading to a man with 4 children and a sick wife working two jobs to make living getting disqualified for the benefit? Or welfare fraud dept. ending up making false accusations maybe?

I haven’t heard of such situations, but I can see them happening.

And that should certainly be addressed, but I was talking more in terms of making welfare, cheaper, more efficient and more cost effective.

TBH I kind of screwed up in the way that the game has poverty as a measured stat, and then members of the poor voter group, and these are being represented in different ways, and can get out of sycch with each other.
It takes a lot of effort to try and keep the whole complex web of connections making sense :smiley: Some times it looks like I am ignoring a problem, or not working on it, but actually most of the time, I am working on it, but have just reverted a bunch of experimental changes that often cause more problems than they solve.

I do find it interesting, and believable that its suggested that the effects on the income of state employees may be effectively ‘overpowered’.
I need to do a lot of number crunching…


Well, thanks for all the play testing. I do remember that Democracy 3 got gradually less balanced as more patches came out, so your caution makes perfect sense. By late patches Canada would start with rampant crime, which I found amusing.

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