We talk about the poor and rich and middle class and can even classify people into those categories based on metrics such as income and wealth. But if we ask people directly to describe themselves, my guess is that fewer than we expect will describe themselves as currently being poor. This is because the subjective and objective interpretations of the word are quite different.
When we evaluate our own lives, we see them holistically, not just in terms of income or wealth, and in comparison to those immediately around us. If our lives are comparable to those of our extended families or others in our neighborhood, we may not think of ourselves as poor. If we have some level of education and live a simple lifestyle that does not seek luxuries, we may not see ourselves as poor. Also, if you see your current circumstances as temporary, say because you just lost your job, and expect things to improve in the future, you may not describe yourself as poor, as this cartoon illustrates.
Coupled with the fact that the poor are so stigmatized in the US and are often described as moochers, people may shy away from describing themselves as poor and instead describe their circumstances as ‘difficult’ or a ‘struggle’ or some other euphemism.
The exception to this aversion is when people are no longer poor but look back retrospectively. Then people may even go out of their way to describe themselves as poorer than they actually were, in order to suggest that they are somehow meritorious for having overcome early hardship and made something of their lives. Politicians in particular seem to take pride in describing themselves as poor when they were young and love to talk about having hard backgrounds, even embellishing their history to make it seem worse than it really was, and now reveling in the fact, when during that time they may have tried to hide it as much as possible.