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Poverty Line

By TrudyAnn Mar 28, 2011 4677 Words
Poverty refers to the condition of not having the means to afford basic human needs such as clean water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. This is also referred to as absolute poverty or destitution. Relative poverty is the condition of having fewer resources or less income than others within a society or country, or compared to worldwide averages.

In the Caribbean, education is the most dominant way of getting out of poverty. It seems to be the main thing to heighten your status on the social ladder as it is seen as a great aid in upward social mobility.

This research seeks to investigate if the lack of interest in education by the teenagers in the Hagley Park community is due to absolute poverty.
It will be beneficial to persons seeking employment as well as persons with financial problems and teenagers who want to attend school but can’t. It will also be useful to the different ministries of the government such as the health, education and finance ministry. It will be beneficial to them as they will be able to see which areas that needs serious attention to help with the growth of the country.

Organizations that seek to demolish inequality in schools and workplaces can use this research to identify some of the factors which need immediate attention to help to maintain equality and fairness in the society.

Statement of Problem
The Effects of Absolute Poverty on the Level of Educational Interest of Teenagers in the Hagley Park Community
The level of absolute poverty in the Hagley Park community has caused teenagers to lose an interest in school.

Aims and Objectives
* To clearly define and explain what poverty is and differentiate the between the types of poverty. * To thoroughly explain the theoretical perspectives on the causes and persistence of poverty. * To explain the problems which arrive when defining and measuring poverty. * To explain the connection between poverty and education. * To find the main cause in the lack of educational interest in the teenagers in the Hagley Park community.

Literature Review
Poverty is an epidemic faced by many underdeveloped countries of the world. It can enhance several areas of crisis including starvation and create a sort of dependency upon other greater nations for underdeveloped countries.

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.” This is the definition of poverty given by According to, these are social definitions of poverty. The statistical definition of the term poverty states that it can be measured using relative or absolute terms. Both are based on income or the consumption value. According to the site, relative poverty measures are the simplest ways to determine the extent of poverty in countries. With the use of this method, the whole population is ranked in order of income per capita. The bottom 10 % or rather whichever percentage the government chooses to use, is then considered to be in the category of poor or impoverished. This measure however, has major drawbacks on a global scale as both an industrialized country, such as the United States of America and perhaps an African country would appear to have a similar poverty rate when truth and in fact, the conditions of the poor in Africa are way more drastic than those considered poor in the USA. It is because of this reason that absolute measures poverty on a global scale. Before one can try to measure absolute poverty, one must first determine if they want to measure income amounts or consumption amounts. Income refers to the amount of money someone makes, while consumption refers to the monetary value of the goods that person actually consumes. This can make a significant difference, because depending on their situation, poor people may be able to get goods for less. While it might appear at the first glance that income and consumption are the same, closer examination reveals that income is just one factor, albeit a large one, which determines consumption amounts.

Absolute poverty measures set a ‘poverty line’ set by the World Bank in 1990 at a certain income amount or consumption amount per year, based on the estimated value of a food, shelter, water, etc. necessary for proper living. Anything below or less than the income poverty line in a country was considered to be at an impoverished state. If instead a poverty line based on consumption was used, anyone consuming goods with a monetary value of less than that of the poverty line would be in poverty.

Relative poverty is therefore measured based off on a poor standard of living or a low income relative to the rest of society, while absolute poverty, according to Haralambos and Holborn in their book Sociology Themes and Perspectives, usually involves a judgement of basic human needs and is measured in terms of the resources required to maintain health and physical efficient. This measure is concerned with establishing the quality and amount of food, clothing and shelter deemed necessary for a healthy life. It can also be referred to as “subsistence poverty” as it is based on assessments of minimum subsistence requirements. It can lead to severe suffering and can go as far as causing death. Poverty was seen as a broader concept incorporating absolute poverty but also includes such features as ‘lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social, and cultural life’. Poverty is an area with many concepts and several different perspectives. Absolute poverty is one which undergoes several critiques. Peter Townsend arguments suggest that it would be challenging to define nutritional needs without taking into consideration a person’s occupation and leisure activities as the needs of an architect could be different from those of a office worker and therefore the basic minimum needs of all persons cannot be the same. Needs and necessities vary in different cultures and society. A more industrialized country may see having a radio or a car as a “must have” while perhaps the mere flush toilet might not be seen as essential in a society that survives off hunting and gathering. For Townsend, “poverty must be related to the needs and demands of a changing society.” Several sociologists argue that it is essential for poverty to be studied in terms of lifestyle and not just the lack of material possessions and certain facilities necessary for materialistic well-being. They are of the belief that if one cannot maintain the lifestyle of the community in which they live, there is an existence of poverty. For Townsend, “poverty can be defined objectively and applied consistently only in terms of the concept of relative deprivation’’. Townsend argues the concept of relative deprivation should be thought of in the terms of the resources available to individuals and households, and styles of living that governs how those resources are used. He believes that household’s material situation ignores other types of resources that might be available. It neglects capital assets (those who own their own home may be better off than those who rent), and ignores occupational fringe benefits, gifts, and the value of public social services such as health care and education. He also believes it is necessary to move beyond consumption (the purchase of goods) to an examination of how resources affect participation in the lifestyle of the community. Townsend argues that poverty involves the inability to participate in approved social activities that are considered normal, such as visiting friends or relatives, having birthday parties for children and going on holiday. Seebohn Rowntree conducted a study of poor families in the 1890’s and drew poverty line in terms of a minimum weekly sumn of money ‘necessary to enable families…to secure the necessities of a healthy life’ (quoted in Coates and Silburn,1970). This money should be enough to cover fuel and light, rent, food, clothing and household and personal items, and was adjusted according to family size. He drew a basic diet sheet that would provide the minimum adequate nutritional intake using minimum monies required for food. Martin Rein argues that this was based on ‘an unrealistic assumption of a no-waste budget, and extensive knowledge in marketing and cooking. An economical budget must be based on knowledge and skill which is least likely to be present in the low-income groups we are concerned with.’ They then calculated the minimum amount of clothes necessary for a person to keep warm and dry and then put a cost to this amount of clothes. They also calculated the average rent paid by the working class people. Rowntree totals the amount outlined above and uses this level of income to be the equal poverty line. He later included personal items such as books in his idea of ‘human needs’. According to Ruth Lister, this suggests that Rowntree himself did not believe that only those in subsistence poverty should be seen as poor, and his work paved the way for later, relative, definitions of poverty. According to Nasser Mustapha in his work Sociology for Caribbean Schools, the underlying idea is that the lifestyle of the poor differs in many respects to that of the non-poor in society. In several societies, similarities are seen in the poverty lifestyle which leads to a development of subculture, having it own norms and values which can be passed on from generation to generation. American anthropologist, Oscar Lewis, developed the culture of poverty concept out of studies done in Mexico and Puerto Rico in the late 1950’s. For him, it has three (3) levels: 1) Individual level, this is where one feels inferior, helpless and has a sense of resignation and fatalism with little about to improve their situation. 2) Family level, at this stage there is free union or consensual marriages, high divorce rates and a numerous matriarchal households. 3) Community level, there is a lack of effective participation and integration in the major institutions, non-membership of trade unions and other similar organizations. There is little use of banks, hospitals and other institutions. Culture of poverty ‘encourages’ poverty since these characteristics act as a guide to ensure the perpetuation of poverty. Lewis’ work is critiqued as some researchers have contended that the behavior of the poor is not culturally ingrained but rather due to situational constraints such as unemployment, underemployment, low income and other related factors. Some researchers have conducted studies in several countries and have concluded that the poor found ways of improving their life situations, for example, participating in community groups and politics and maintaining strong family units. Conflict theorists posit that poverty results from the failure of the state to allocate resources equitably. Three angles from which they view poverty include: Labour market, stratification system and capitalism. In industrialized societies, the demand for skilled workers is high. Unemployed and underemployed tend not to meet the requirements and are unable to demand higher wages and so, remain in poverty. There is a perspective that there is a dual labour market, which includes a primary labour market, found in large profitable companies which provide job security, high wages and training opportunities and a secondary labour market found in smaller companies, with little job security, low wages and few training opportunities. This market is one where women and ethnic minorities are found. The stratification system relates poverty to class. The ‘underclass’, which consists of retired elderly people, the physically challenged and single-parent families, for example, lacks prestige and wealth. Their low position is a result of their low status. Due to this status, opportunities for better-paid employment are limited. Capitalism is beneficial to owners of production to ensure that poverty exists as it allows them to maintain the capitalist system and maximize profits. Members of the working class own only their labour which is sold for a wage. If individuals’ labour is not in demand, then wages are low. With the workers being competitive, the levels of wage remain in check. Government then acts in favour of the ruling class and does little to alleviate poverty. Critiques of this perspective suggests that they have failed to explicitly state what causes groups in society to become poor, it does not clearly delineate the poor from other members of the working class and fails to give an explanation for their poverty. They also state that the theory is not sensitive to the income variations existing within the working class. Herbert J. Gans argues that poverty persists because it is beneficial to certain non-poor and affluent groups in society. For them poverty is not seen as a social problem and because of this, Gans argues that there are certain functions of poverty. The functionalist posits that in every society there are menial, dirty, and hazardous jobs and poverty ensures that there is a pool of low-wage labour with no choice but to accept these job types. According to this theory, poverty ensures that there are continuous employment opportunities for those who serve the poor such as doctors, welfare workers, police, probation officers, etc. Gans claims that the poor are unable to alter their situation and poverty exists to benefit non-poor members of society. Finally, Caribbean youths have been identified in many cases as vulnerable. Young men leave school with few skills and little chances of getting a job and turn to criminal activities. This only perpetuates a cycle of poverty. There is little employment available and this causes youth to see school as unimportant as they will still be unable to get a job and even if they do, they will be used for cheap labour. Failure of the economy to provide enough jobs leads youths to having an inappropriate attitude towards school, occupational and wages aspirations.

The Research Design
The study entitled, “The Effects of Absolute Poverty on the level of Educational Interest of Teenagers in the Hagley Park Community” is a quantitative research that attempts to determine the relationship between poverty and a lack of good grades from the students in the Hagley Park area.

A survey was selected. This is a data collection tool used to gather information about individuals. This method was selected as it is less expensive than many other data collection techniques as well as it can easily be administered and it is easy to create and a large amount of data can be collected within a short period of time.

The research was done during the first (1st) of March, to the thirteenth (13th) of March 2010.

Sample Selection
A non-representative convenience sample was chosen as it is less expensive.
Non-representative sampling is any sampling method where some elements of the population have no chance of selection.
Convenience sampling involves the sample being drawn from that part of the population which is close to hand. The sample is readily available and convenient.
The first ten (10) teenage girls and ten (10) teenage boys who were seen idling on the streets during the school period were selected.
A questionnaire was given to each sample and was collected the following day after they were given.

Data-Collection Instrument
The researcher has observed that teenagers in the Hagley Park community display a lack of interest in school and seeks to find if this attitude is as a result of their state of poverty.
A survey questionnaire was formulated and distributed among teenagers. Fifteen (15) questions were asked; both open-ended and close-ended questions were asked. The questionnaire consisted of three (3) sections: A, which asked for the co-operation of the participants and seeking their confidence that their identity will remain concealed and that they be as truthful as possible, B, which seeks personal information such as age, and gender and the final section, C, consisted of the main questions which would greatly aid in the research.

The questions were used to prepare the analysis and discussions of the findings.

Figure [ 1 ] shows the sex of the respondents.

The column chart above shows that ten (10) of the respondents were females while ten (10) were males.

Figure 2 shows the ages of the respondents.

The bar graph above depicts that six (6) of the participants were between the ages thirteen (13) to fifteen (15) while the remaining fourteen (14) participants were between the ages of sixteen (16) and nineteen (19).

Figure 3. Shows the number of respondents who were comfortable with the way they lived.

The figure above illustrates that eleven (11) participants were not comfortable with their lives while another nine (9) were comfortable with it.

Figure 4. Shows the number of respondents who considered themselves to be poor

The pie chart above shows that fourteen (14) participants did not think that they were poor while six (6) felt that they were.

Figure 5. Shows the number of respondents whose parents/guardians face financial difficulties providing lunch money

The column chart above depicts the number of respondents who face difficulties getting lunch money. Five (5) participants responded saying never. Only one (1) hardly ever faced difficulties, eight (8) said sometimes, while six (6) said very often.

Figure 6. Shows the number of respondents who felt education was important to get a person out of poverty.

The pie chart above shows that majority of the respondents felt that education was important. Thirteen (13) said yes, two (2) said no, while another two (2) said maybe, depending on the person’s situation and three (3) were not sure.

Figure 7. Shows how often the respondents attend the school.

Most participants went to school every day with ten (10) participants choosing every day. Six (6) chose seldom attendance, while two (2) said often and two (2) said none at all.

Figure 8. Shows the usual grades of the respondents.

The bar graph above represents the respondents’ choice of grades. Ten (10) said sometimes they got good grades, while seven (7) said they did not get good grades. Only three (3) respondents said they normally get good grades.

Figure 9. Shows the how the respondents feel about their usual grades

The chart above shows that six (6) respondents were disappointed with their grades, six (6) were happy with them, while eight (8) did not care about their grades.

Figure 10. Shows the number of respondents who enjoy school

The bar graph above shows that ten (10) respondents did not enjoy school, while an equal amount of ten (10) did.

Figure 11. Shows the reasons respondents did not enjoy school.

According to the pie chart above, three (3) respondents felt that school was unimportant, while three (3) said people looked down on them and four (4) did not enjoy school because it is boring.

Figure 12. Shows the number of respondents who experience a feeling of inferiority at school due to the income of their parents/ guardians.

The figure depicts that eight (8) respondents felt inferior at school because of financial issues while twelve (12) did not feel that way.

Analysis of Data
The information yielded from the survey states that forty-five percent (45%) of the respondents were comfortable with the quality of the life they have, while fifty-five percent (55%) were not comfortable with it.

Seventy percent (70%) of respondents did not consider themselves poor as they were able to afford what they saw as necessities. Thirty percent (30%) considered themselves poor as they faced financial hardship.

Twenty-five (25%) of respondents have claimed to never had a problem getting lunch money. Seventy percent (70%) of respondents face difficulties getting lunch money with thirty percent (30%) saying this happened very often. The remaining five percent (5%) said it hardly ever happened.

Majority of respondents saw education as important. Sixty-five percent (65%) saw education as an important factor to get one out of poverty. Ten percent (10%) disagreed while another ten percent (10%) said maybe it could be helpful at some point. Fifteen percent (15%) could not make a decision on whether they thought it was important or not.

Fifty percent (50%) of participants claimed to attend school every day and ten percent (10%) said they went frequently. Ten percent (10%) of respondents did not attend school at all. Twenty-five percent (25%) of respondents hardly attended school. Their reasons for this were a frequent occurrence of illnesses or unavailability of money to provide transportation and lunch money. Some felt useless without school books which persons/ guardians were unable to buy.

Half of the respondents, fifty percent (50%), said they sometimes got good grades, while fifteen percent (15%) said they usually got good grades and the remaining thirty-five percent (35%) claimed to never get good grades.

Thirty percent (30%) of respondents feel satisfied with the grades they get, while another thirty percent (30%) feel a sense of disappointment. The remaining forty percent (40%) do not care about their grades.

An equal amount of participants enjoyed school while the remaining fifty percent (50%) did not. Fifteen percent (15%) of participants found school to be unimportant while another fifteen percent (15%) did not enjoy school because they felt insecure among other students because they were poor. Twenty percent (20%) of respondents did not enjoy school because they found it boring.

The income of parents/ guardians made some of the participants feel inferior at school. Forty percent (40%) of participants felt this way while the remaining sixty percent (60%) did not feel inferior.

Based off the results of the survey one could say that a matter which affects the community greatly is the financial capabilities of the members of that particular area. The majority of participants found education to be of importance, but despite this fact, the majority hardly attended school. One could therefore say that there are factors which contribute to the poor attendance rather than it being a lack of interest in gaining an education. The majority of participants said they were uncomfortable with the situations they experienced within their lives. Also, the vast amount of the respondents did not consider themselves to be poor yet still the majority had stated financial difficulties which would probably mean that the definition of poor or poverty was not one which was quite understood. There were quite a few participants who felt inferior to other students due to the wages that their parents/ guardians collected. There was a small minority of the respondents who experienced illnesses on a regular basis which prevented them from going to school. It was only a few respondents who had no interest in school as they didn’t see it as an important means for upward social mobility. They are of the belief that there are other options to get them out of poverty. These included: learning skills and trades, starting your own business, hustling, associating with persons who hold a high position on the social ladder could also elevate you. Some even went as far as saying determination is the key and where there is a will there is a way, meaning once they put their mind to getting out of poverty, they would, with or without education. A culture of poverty is seen as some participants believe that because they have seen members of the community survive without education, they too can do so.

Throughout the whole research, the major factor which arose was the issue of being unable to afford certain things, in most cases transportation or lunch money for school. Due to the financial constraints and a low budget, this made life uncomfortable.

It is unfair to say that teenagers in the Hagley Park community lack interest in school based off observations as one does not know the reasons behind an individual’s behavior just by appearance.

One could say that based off this research, the hypotheses would be incorrect as the majority of participants involved in the survey had financial problems rather than issues with not having easy access to the necessities of life. Only a few suffered from illnesses which were extreme enough to hinder them from attending school and only a few deemed school as unimportant. There are however, limitations to this research. Some of these include: The answer choices provided on a survey may not be an accurate reflection of how the participants truly feel; this would make results incorrect, the sample can be bias as it is not representative of the views of the whole population. This method of sampling is too limited to use for generalizing and making inference about an entire population and therefore the validity of the research may be low. Respondents may not have had a full understanding of a question, which would lead to them giving an incorrect response. Questions which could have been asked that would e beneficial to the research had not been asked. Another limitation of this research is the time in which it was conducted was too short. In concluding, James Bartholomew’s (radical market liberal theorist) view of the welfare state in England is of great use to relate to this research. As the research shows that it is a financial crisis that is experienced by participants, the government can provide economic growth by making more jobs available and ensure that one is paid enough to sustain one’s family and their needs are met. Taxes should be dropped as high taxes does not harm the rich but hits the poor greatly. High taxes stifle entrepreneurship and leave those who are unemployed or being used for cheap labour without any other possible ‘legal’ options. If this is done, one will be able to send their child/ children to school and further increase the growth of the country.

* Haralambos Mike, Holborn Martin, Seventh edition Sociology Themes and Perspectives, London, HarperCollins Publishers Limited, 2008.

* Mustapha Nasser, Sociology For Caribbean Students Development and Social Change, Kingston, Jamaica, Ian Randle Publishers, 2006.

* Macionis John J., Prof. Plummer Ken, Sociology: A Global Introduction (4th edition), McGraw-Hill, 2000, published 2008.



I am trying to gather data for my Sociology Internal Assessment which concerns the issues of poverty and education in the Hagley Park community. Please answer the following questions. The information collected will remain confidential.

1. Sex:
Male [ ]
Female [ ]

2. Age:
13-15 [ ]
16-19 [ ]

3. Do you live with your parents?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]

3b. If no, why don’t you live with them?



4. Are you comfortable with your lifestyle?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
4b. If not,why?



5. Do you consider yourself to be poor?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]

5b. What experiences have given you reasons to think you are poor? ____________________________________________________________



6. Do your parents/guardians encounter financial difficulties finding lunch money? Very often [ ]
Never [ ]
Sometimes [ ]
Hardly [ ]

7. Do you see education as important to get you out of poverty?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Maybe [ ]
Not sure [ ]
7b. If you don’t see education as important to get you out of poverty, what other means do you think can? ____________________________________________________________



8. Do you think skin colour is more important than education to help you get out of poverty? Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Not sure [ ]

9. Do you attend school?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]

10. How often do you attend school?
Often [ ]
Seldom [ ]
Everyday [ ]
None at all [ ]

10b. If you hardly attend school or none at all, state why? ____________________________________________________________



11. Do you get good grades?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Sometimes [ ]

12. How do you feel when you see these grades?
Disappointed [ ]
Happy [ ]
Don’t care [ ]

13. How often do you study?
Never [ ]
Often [ ]
Seldom [ ]

14. Do you enjoy school?
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
14b. If not, why?
Unimportant [ ]
Boring [ ]
You are looked down upon [ ]
Other ____________________________________________________________


15. Do you feel inferior at school because of the level of your parents/ guardians’ income? Yes [ ]
No [ ]

Cite This Document

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