Poverty has been defined in many different ways. Some attempt to reduce it to numbers, while others believe that a more vague definition must be used. In the end, a combination of both methods is best. DiNitto and Cummins (2007), in their book “Social Welfare, Politics and Public Policy,” present six definitions and explanations of poverty. Social reformers Webb and Webb (1911) present another angle on poverty. Essentially, all definitions are correct, the debate is of which to use when creating policy.
“Less than” Poverty
DiNitto and Cummings (2007) first present poverty as depravation. They explain that poverty as depravation is an insufficiency in an “item required to maintain a decent standard of living” such as clothing, food, shelter or medical care. At first glance this definition seems to sum up the general understanding of poverty. However, the issue lies with the “decent standard of living.” This statement implies that there is an agreed upon standard for a comfortable or decent lifestyle. To be considered in poverty by this definition one would have to live below the invisible standard of decent living. This is the ‘less than enough” definition of poverty and is the most commonly used definition of poverty to date.
Second, DiNitto and Cummings (2007) described poverty as inequality. Poverty as inequality refers to the “inequality in the distribution of income.” This definition is such a vague generalization that practically any person can make a legitimate claim at being impoverished. Any individual can claim that they receive an unequal amount of income and therefore are in relative poverty- having less than someone else and are entitled to more. This is the “less than that guy” definition of poverty.
The last “less than” poverty definition is poverty as lack of human capitol. This definition, according to DiNitto and Cummings (2007), describes that in a free market productivity is key and those with low
References: Berleman, W. (1970). Poverty--Some Dilemmas in Definition. Growth & Change, 1(4), 27. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database. Besharov, D., & Call, D. (2009). Income Transfers Alone Won 't Eradicate Poverty. Policy Studies Journal, 37(4), 599-631. DiNitto, D. & Cummings, L. (2007) Social Welfare, Politics and Public Policy. Pearson Education, Boston, MA. P 80-118, 161-197, 250-379.