If You Are Born Poor It’s Not Your Mistake, But If You Die Poor It’s Your Mistake

Bill Gates? Muriel Strode? Ella Wheeler Wilcox? Joey Adams? Apocryphal? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, is one of the richest people in the world. A provocative remark about poverty has been ascribed to him:

If you are born poor it’s not your mistake but if you die poor it’s your mistake.

I have been unable to find a solid citation, and I am skeptical of this ascription. Would you please examine this saying?

Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive evidence that Bill Gates made this statement. His philanthropic endeavors via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce hunger and extreme poverty suggest that Gates is aware of the major obstacles facing many people who are born into harsh circumstances.

In 1997 a strong match appeared in a message posted to the discussion system Usenet within the newsgroup news.newusers.questions. The statement appeared in a get-rich-quick chain-letter message which used the word “fault” instead of “mistake”. No attribution was specified. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT THAT YOU WERE BORN POOR…AND IF YOU DIE POOR, IT’S YOUR BIGGEST FAULT !!!!

The remark attributed to Gates appeared as a message in the Google Group CETAA67 by 2008, but no supporting citation was provided. The word “you’re” was written as “you”: 2

If you born poor, it’s not your mistake.
But if you die poor it’s your mistake
• Bill Gates

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading If You Are Born Poor It’s Not Your Mistake, But If You Die Poor It’s Your Mistake

Notes:

  1. 1997 February 21, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: news.newusers.questions, From: BentAyu @pc.jaring.my, Subject: DON’T DIE POOR…….read this !!! (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 5, 2018) link
  2. 2008 June 1, Google Groups discussion message, Group: CETAA67, From: Usha Mohan @yahoo.com, Subject: Fw: Thoughts for the day, Forwarded Email From: Deepak @mcdermott.com, Forwarded Date: 2008 May 28, Forwarded Subject: Fw: Thoughts for the day. (Google Groups Search; Accessed August 2, 2018) link