Why Is It so Difficult to Define Poverty

Topics: Poverty, Poverty threshold, Maslow's hierarchy of needs Pages: 5 (1755 words) Published: April 30, 2012
Social Welfare Theory and Methodology
Why is so difficult to define poverty

In general, the term poverty refers to a social and economic condition which is undesirable for any individual or group in society. This essay will discuss different approaches used to define poverty. First is absolute poverty, this approach looks at the lack of income in order to satisfy the essential requirement for physiological survival. It then goes on to discuss the relative approach which is lack of income in order to reach the average standard of living in society in which one live. This essay also addresses the consensual approach this is based on the lack of socially perceived necessities, it also incorporate an income measure to the extent that it is used along with deprivation. It also look at social exclusion which describe the lack of access to basic service whether in the home or outside, the different ways through non-participation in common social activities, isolation, and discrimination.

Absolute poverty is define as not having the basic means to live adequately, it also measure a set poverty line. The problem and limitation of defining poverty by use of poverty are many. It has encouraged a tendency to define poverty at an extremely low level of income necessary to ensure physical survival. An absolute measure of poverty will remain the same regard of the social circumstance is an impossibility. Even the attempt to calculate absolute nutrition requirement for substance (for example: the poverty line which the USA is base on a dollar a day) fails once we appreciate that even necessary minimum levels of nutrition will vary with such changeable factor as life expectancy. Such measure are even less realistic when consider the need for clothing or shelter, for what we consider necessary minimum can never be fixed absolutely. Other concepts of absolute poverty go beyond the notion of substance and materials poverty by introducing the idea of ‘basic cultural needs’. This broadens the idea of basic human needs beyond the level of physical survival. The life style of the poor differs in certain respects from other members of society, although life styles in different societies share common characteristics. The circumstances of poverty are similar, in many respects, where similar circumstances and problems tend to produce similar responses, and these responses can develop into a culture, that is learn, shared, and socially transmitted behaviour of a social group. Cultures are develops to give people a guide as to how they should behave, and cope with their surroundings. Cultures are always changing; however, the broad outlines are passed on from one generation to another by parents and others who influence people when they are young. Even those who support an absolute definition of poverty tend to relate necessities to their own society, for example, even Rowntree accepted that the choice of food to make up a person’s diet was related to the cultural expectations of food in a society, not just any mixture of vitamins, calories, ect (Stephen Moore, 2002). However, most politicians have adopt a relative approach to poverty, to argue that poverty can never be defined or measured in absolute terms, but always relative to the society in which it occurs. This approach has also encouraged a wider imprecation of the standards against which poverty is measured, that it is not enough simply to measure the minimum requirement for food, clothing, and shelter in any given society at any given point in time.

Another definition of poverty is relative poverty. This measurement of poverty is based on working out the income needed to attain an accepted standard of living in a society. Relative deprivation occurs when people cannot obtain, the basic amenities and services which allow them to play their role, participate, and follow expected customary behaviour in their society. In a rapidly changing world, definition of...

Bibliography: Moore, S, (2002) Social welfare alive, third edition Nelson Thornes Ltd
David, V, (1991), Poor Citizens the state the poor in twentieth century Britain, first edition, Longman Group UK Ltd
Alcock, P, (1993) Understanding Poverty, Macmillan Press Ltd
Coates,K, Silburn, R, (1983)Poverty the Forgotten English, fourth edition,
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