How to Improve Poverty Measurement in the United States
Although there is widespread consensus that the current official measure of poverty in the United States is badly flawed, three decades of discussion and debate have not resulted in any changes to this statistic. To a casual observer, this may seem puzzling in a nation with a long tradition of regularly updated national statistics. The first several sections of this paper discuss current poverty measurement and various efforts at improvement, attempting to answer the question “Why has it been so difficult to improve the official measurement of poverty in the United States?”
While the United States has been embroiled in its own debate over poverty statistics, the European Union has moved in quite a different direction. The next part of this paper summarizes some alternative poverty measurement approaches that are being used elsewhere, with an eye to seeing what we in the United States can learn from these efforts. The final part of the paper makes a series of recommendations about how to move forward with improved measures of economic need, as well as broader measures of deprivation in other key social areas.
Because this paper has necessary space limitations, I will discuss only a restricted set of topics. Hence, I will ignore some important but more technical debates within the literature. I am going to focus almost entirely on so-called “headcount” measures of poverty, which indicate a certain share of people who fall below some definable point that indexes poverty or deprivation. The problems with this approach are wellknown because it does not measure the depth of economic need. People who are poor could become poorer, with no change in a headcount measure of poverty. Headcount measures are widely used, however, because they are easily understood (important for a public and broadly used measure) and are often easier to implement than other more complex measures. Consistent with the use of the headcount, I will focus on a limited number of poverty measurement approaches that have been implemented in the United States or elsewhere. I mention a few alternative approaches below but spend little time discussing them.
The poverty measure in the United States is usually thought of as a measure of serious economic need or economic deprivation. Our historical definition of poverty focuses on income, the economic resources available to a family, rather than on outcome measures of consumption or well-being. “Living in poverty” suggests that a family has so little income that they are unable to purchase the things that we as a society think they need for a minimally decent life. In the United States, this typically means more than merely escaping starvation; it means being able to purchase the goods and services that are necessary to afford adequate and stable housing, find and hold a job (if physically able), participate as a citizen in the community, keep oneself and one’s family reasonably healthy, and provide the things that one’s children need to participate effectively in school.
An income-based measure of poverty requires agreement on at least four major definitional items. In this paper, I primarily address issues related to the first two of these. To begin, one needs to define a poverty threshold, the level of income or other resources below which a family is considered poor. Thresholds that are fixed over time in real terms (that is, they are entirely nonresponsive to economic growth or changes in living standards) are typically referred to as absolute. The official U.S. measure falls into this category. Thresholds that vary one-to-one with income growth (such as a threshold set at 50 percent of median income) are typically referred to as relative. The European Union and the OECD use such measures. It is, of course, possible to have a threshold that changes with income growth but has an elasticity of less than one.
The second necessary definition is a resource measure, defining which resources are counted for each family; the sum of these resources is then compared to the threshold to determine whether the persons in the family are poor. Discussions about the resource definition in the United States have included such issues as whether to include the value of in-kind programs in estimating income or whether to use after-tax rather than before-tax measures of income.
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Third, it is important to agree about the level at which income is aggregated and over what time period. The current U.S. definition is based on the resources of all related and coresident family members over a calendar year. I will assume throughout this paper that we are interested in poverty rates based on annual income and that there is an agreed-upon definition of “family” whose annual income is being measured. In reality, there is substantial debate over whether poverty measures should be based on related individuals who live together (families), whether they should also include cohabiters, or whether they should include all coresidents (households). There is also debate over whether income should be measured for longer or shorter durations than one year.
Fourth, it is important to agree about how different family sizes are dealt with. One option is to develop a different threshold for each family size. An alternative option, used in both the United States and Europe, is to develop a threshold based on a modal family size and then calculate the threshold for other-sized families using an equivalence scale that determines the relative income level needed to keep families of different sizes at the same standard of living. Many papers have explored appropriate equivalence scales, and the scale proposed by Betson (1996) has been most used in alternative poverty calculations in recent years in the United States.
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How is poverty measured?
Poverty is measured in the United States by comparing a person’s or family’s income to a set poverty threshold or minimum amount of income needed to cover basic needs. People whose income falls under their threshold are considered poor.
The U.S. Census Bureau is the government agency in charge of measuring poverty. To do so, it uses two main measures, the official poverty measure and the Supplemental Poverty Measure, both of which are described in this FAQ.
Official Poverty Measure
The Census Bureau determines poverty status by using an official poverty measure (OPM) that compares pre-tax cash income against a threshold that is set at three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963 and adjusted for family size.
The OPM uses calculations of these three elements—income, threshold, and family—to estimate what percentage of the population is poor.
The official poverty estimates are drawn from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC), which is conducted in February, March, and April with a sample of approximately 100,000 addresses per year.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data are available, the OPM national poverty rate was 12.7 percent. There were 40.6 million people in poverty.
The CPS ASEC questionnaire asks about income from more than 50 sources and records up to 27 different income amounts. Income is defined by the OPM to include, before taxes, the following sources:
- Unemployment and workers’ compensation
- Social Security
- Supplemental Security Income
- Public assistance
- Veterans’ payments
- Pension or retirement income
- Child support
- Educational assistance
- Other miscellaneous sources
The OPM does not include as income noncash government benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and housing assistance.
Poverty thresholds, the minimum income needed to avoid poverty, are updated annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index , and adjusted for family size, composition, and age of householder.
OPM thresholds do not vary geographically.* In 2016, the OPM poverty threshold for a family of four was $24,339.
Poverty thresholds serve different purposes, including tracking poverty over time, comparing poverty across different demographic groups, and as the starting point for determining eligibility for a range of federal assistance programs.
(To learn more about using the poverty thresholds, or their administrative counterpoint, the poverty guidelines, for determining program eligibility, see FAQ: What are poverty thresholds and poverty guidelines? )
* The Census Bureau cautions that the thresholds should be interpreted as a “statistical yardstick” rather than as a complete accounting of how much income people need to live. They were intended to define and quantify poverty in America and to record changes in the number of persons and families in poverty and their characteristics over time.
Family is defined by the OPM as a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption who reside together. All such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family.
In 1959, when the official government poverty series began, poverty was estimated at 22 percent. Before that time, unofficial estimates by researchers found a poverty rate in 1914 of 66 percent; 78 percent in 1932; 32 percent in 1947; and 24 percent in 1958.**
Figure 1 shows more recent poverty rates, in 1968, 1990, and 2016, by age, race, and Hispanic origin, using the OPM.
Figure 1. Official U.S. poverty rates in 1968, 1990, and 2016 show variation by age and racial/ethnic group and over time
** R. D. Plotnick, E. Smolensky, E. Evenhouse, and S. Reilly, “The Twentieth-Century Record of Inequality and Poverty in the United States,” in The Cambridge Economic History of the United States, Vol. 3, eds. S. L. Engerman and R. E. Gallman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 249-299; G. Fisher, “Estimates of the Poverty Population under the Current Official Definition for Years before 1959,” mimeograph, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1986.
The Census Bureau releases the results of their analysis using the OPM every year in a report called Income and Poverty in the United States . The report includes charts and tables on information such as the following:
- household income by race and Hispanic origin, age of household head, nativity, region, residence, income inequality, and earnings and work experience;
- poverty estimates by race and Hispanic origin, age, sex, nativity, region, residence, work experience, disability status, educational attainment, and family type; and
- depth of poverty, ratio of income to poverty, income deficit, shared households, and estimates using alternative and experimental poverty measures.
To learn more about the official poverty measure, see the Census Bureau discussion, “How the Census Bureau Measures Poverty,” and the infographic, “ How Census Measures Poverty .”
Researchers and policymakers have long called for changes to the official poverty measure for a number of reasons. However, in spite of its shortcomings, detailed below, its salience in policymaking is noted by the economists Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan:
Few economic indicators are more closely watched or more important for policy than the official poverty rate. The poverty rate is often cited by policymakers, researchers, and advocates who are evaluating social programs that account for more than half a trillion dollars in government spending.
Principal criticisms of the OPM include:
- Its “headcount” approach identifies only the share of people who fall below the poverty threshold, but does not measure the depth of economic need;
- It does not reflect modern expenses and resources, by excluding significant draws on income such as taxes, work expenses, and out-of-pocket medical expenses, and excluding potentially sizable resources such as in-kind benefits (e.g., food assistance);
- It does not vary by geographic differences in cost of living within the contiguous United States despite huge variation;
- It is not adjusted for changes in the standard of living over time; and
- Its strict definition of measurement units—“family”—as persons living in the same household who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption does not reflect the nature of many households today, including those made up of cohabitors, unmarried partners with children from previous relationships, and foster children.
While the official measure remains the official national poverty statistic, the Census Bureau has been estimating poverty using a number of experimental measures as well, since the mid-1990s. See Poverty: Experimental Measures on the Census Bureau’s website for more about these approaches.
The most recent and prominent experimental measure, the Supplemental Poverty Measure—a work-in-progress that supplements but does not replace the official measure—is discussed below.
Supplemental Poverty Measure
The Census Bureau introduced the Supplemental Poverty Measure or SPM in 2010 to provide an alternative view of poverty in the United States that better reflects life in the 21st century, including contemporary social and economic realities and government policy.
As its name suggests, the SPM supplements but does not replace the official poverty measure, which remains the nation’s source for official poverty statistics and for determining means-tested program eligibility.
In a side-by-side comparison of the official poverty measure and the SPM, the Census Bureau notes their differences in measurement units, poverty threshold, threshold adjustments (e.g., by family size), updating thresholds, and what counts as resources, summarized in Table 3 below.
Source: L. Fox, “The Supplemental Poverty Measure: 2016,” Current Population Reports P60-261 (RV), Revised September 2017.
Note: “Family” as defined by the Census Bureau is “a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together; all such people (including related subfamily members) are considered as members of one family.”
A comparison of official and SPM poverty rates in 2016 for the total population and among three age groups: under age 18, adults ages 18 to 64, and elders age 65 and over, is shown in Figure 2.
For most groups, SPM poverty rates were higher than official poverty rates; children are an exception with 15.2 percent poor using the SPM and 18.0 percent poor using the official measure. Analysts attribute the lower SPM child poverty rate largely to the measure’s inclusion of noncash benefits such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) benefits.
The much higher SPM poverty rates for people age 65 and older—14.5 percent vs. 9.3 percent using the OPM—partially reflect that the official thresholds are set lower for families with householders in this age group, while the SPM thresholds do not vary by age.
In addition, the SPM rate is higher for people age 65 and older because it includes out-of-pocket medical expenditures, which are typically high for the elderly, whereas the official measure does not take them into account.
Figure 2. Poverty rates using OPM and SPM measures for total population and by age group, 2016, show a higher OPM child poverty rate and higher SPM elderly poverty rates.
The World Bank Group’s mission is to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity. In order to monitor progress and understand the types of poverty reduction strategies that could work, it is important to measure poverty regularly.
The international poverty line is set at $2.15 per person per day using 2017 prices. This means that anyone living on less than $2.15 a day is in extreme poverty. About 648 million people globally were in this situation in 2019.
The COVID-19 pandemic dealt the biggest setback to global poverty-reduction efforts since 1990, increasing the number of people in extreme poverty by about 70 million, to 719 million people. Rising energy and food crises, caused in part by the war in Ukraine, and the effects of climate change contribute to an uneven recovery.
To better understand whether the world is on track to end extreme poverty, and how individual countries are faring, we must regularly measure progress. Poverty measurement and analysis have been a key aspect of the World Bank’s mission for years, as is our work to share knowledge and methods for how to measure poverty more accurately and more frequently.
By measuring poverty, we learn which poverty reduction strategies work, and which do not. Poverty measurement also helps developing countries gauge program effectiveness and guide their development strategy in a rapidly changing economic environment.
Last Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Measuring poverty and communicating poverty reduction results are long-standing priorities for the World Bank. In 2015, we set up a Commission on Global Poverty to provide recommendations on how to measure and monitor global poverty more comprehensively. The Commission provided 21 recommendations. They included broadening the scope of poverty measurements to include non-monetary measures, introducing a societal headcount measure of global poverty, and publishing a global profile of the poor.
The World Bank Group has committed to adopting most of these recommendations. In 2017, we introduced two complementary global poverty lines, which can be used as a benchmark for countries across the world whose level of development makes the International Poverty Line — $2.15 per day — not relevant. The $3.65 and $6.85 per person, per day poverty lines complement, not replace, the International Poverty Line.
In 2018, the World Bank report Piecing Together the Poverty Puzzle broadened the ways we define and measure poverty, by:
- Presenting a new measure of societal poverty, integrating the absolute concept of extreme poverty and a notion of relative poverty reflecting needs across countries.
- Introducing a multi-dimensional poverty measure that is anchored on household consumption and the International Poverty Line, but broadens the measure by including information on access to education and utilities.
- Investigating the differences in poverty within households, including by age and gender.
Twice a year, the World Bank Group produces Poverty and Equity Briefs that highlight poverty, shared prosperity, and inequality trends in each country. In September 2019, the country Poverty Briefs also began to report data on multidimensional poverty indicators and progressively increased coverage to 144 countries (which appear in the latest PSPR).
In 2020, COVID-19 posed a new challenge to measuring the impact of the devastating pandemic, particularly on the poor and vulnerable. Surveys based on face-to-face interviews were hindered by social distancing protocols and limitations on mobility. Policy makers needed timely and relevant information on the impacts of the crisis as well as the effectiveness of their policy measures to save lives and support livelihoods. World Bank-supported phone surveys to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 on households and individuals were then implemented in 89 countries across all developing regions.
We are also working with country statistical offices to build local capacity and to help nations develop and implement their poverty surveys, as well as assess results.
On monitoring project impacts, the Bank Group has two main tools to improve and measure results in real-time: Survey of Well-being via Instant Frequent Tracking (SWIFT) and Iterative Beneficiary Monitoring (IBM) . These tools rely on mobile technology, and big and small data to produce information on specific project results and on consumption/income of project beneficiaries. IBM is currently mainstreamed in [more than 40] operations in FCV and non-FCV contexts. SWIFT plays an important role in linking poverty and sector-specific indicators through affordable data collection and analysis.
Together with our country clients, we are now developing and testing high-frequency survey methods that rely on mobile technology or prediction methods. Working with national statistical offices and non-governmental organizations, our Listening to Africa initiative is piloting the use of mobile phones to regularly collect information on living conditions in [six] African countries.
Official global, regional, and country poverty results are based on data that the World Bank compiles and disseminates through our Poverty and Inequality Platform .
The World Bank's advisory and technical support has led to survey and methodological improvements in many countries. Here are a few examples:
By combining population census and household surveys, we worked with the statistical office of the Republic of Serbia to develop a set of poverty maps that show variability in welfare across the country and estimate the poverty rates for small geographic areas, such as districts and municipalities. Similar efforts were carried out in Croatia .
Poverty in Tajikistan is seasonal and is linked to farm work and remittances. Given this nuance, the country introduced a new approach to assess and measure poverty that is based on international best-practices and relies on quarterly household budget survey. The new measure helps the government report on poverty both on a quarterly and annual basis.
Interactive poverty maps are a useful tool to visualize and compare poverty rates across geographic areas. Using three different datasets, the World Bank rolled out the interactive poverty maps for Bangladesh , which explore and visualize socioeconomic data at the district and the sub-district levels of the country. The World Bank has also produced a spatial database of Afghanistan , which visualizes data from reliable sources at the province and district level. And the World Bank partnered with the National Statistics and Information Authority of Afghanistan to produce the first set of poverty maps for Afghanistan for the provinces of Kabul and Herat.
Decades of civil war and political fragmentation have made Somalia one of the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To better understand the impact of economic hardship on the lives of ordinary Somalis, the World Bank, together with the Somali statistical authorities created the Somali High Frequency survey and published the recent Somali Poverty and Vulnerability Assessment , which analyzes data and provides valuable insights about the underlying causes of poverty and the best strategies for fighting it. Voluntary video testimonials of Somalis were recorded and complemented the quantitative date to further zoom into their lives.
To fill the lack of reliable data in South Sudan, we have used an innovative questionnaire design for a high frequency survey to document the livelihoods, consumption patterns and perceptions of the people. In addition, we have started to collect video testimonials from people to capture the situation on the ground.
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2021
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- Poverty & Equity Data Portal
- PovcalNet—an online analysis tool to monitor global poverty
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Concept of Poverty Definition Essay
Poverty is a widely useful and common concept in many spheres of socioeconomic development. Albeit a universal concept, many people have different conceptions of the term. In fact, Misturelli and Heffernan (2010) say the concept has different clusters of meanings and definitions. Other researchers believe the evolving nature of poverty contributes to its varied meanings. The discourse analysis of Misturelli and Heffernan (2010) was among the first research studies to document how the evolving nature of poverty gave it different meanings and definitions. Pantazis, Gordon and Levitas (2006) take a pragmatic construction of this argument by arguing that most people cannot define poverty in any way that they like. The discourse, or subject areas, of these meanings provide the differences. This paper builds on these arguments by reviewing different conceptions of the term.
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Poverty as a measure of low income
Since the 1880s, researchers have come up with three main conceptions of the term – “subsistence, basic needs and relative deprivation” (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). Pantazis, Gordon and Levitas (2006) use the first criterion to define poverty by saying that it is “The Lack of income, access to good quality health, education and housing, and the exposure to poor quality living environments” (p. 30). They say these attributes affect people’s well-being. In line with the same understanding, Pantazis, Gordon and Levitas (2006) say low income is an important component of poverty because it affects people’s well-being as well. Here, it is important to understand that short spells of low incomes do not necessarily affect people’s well-being. However, long spells of low incomes are bound to have the reverse effect (ill-being). Although this discussion does not directly contribute to our understanding of poverty, it helps us to understand the views of other researchers who group low-income people as “poverty-stricken” people (Pantazis, Gordon & Levitas 2006). This is false. In fact, unless the low income has a negative effect on the people affected, it is incorrect to equate low income with poverty. Nonetheless, this is one perception that outlines people’s understanding of the term.
The “Basic Needs” approach
Booth and Rowntree (cited in Pantazis, Gordon & Levitas 2006) are among the first researchers to explore the concept of poverty. They did so by studying the concept in the context of early 19 th century England. Here, they opposed the commonly held belief that poverty meant the lack of financial resources (only). Instead, they expanded this understanding by saying that poor health, housing, and the lack of education (among other socioeconomic variables) also defined poverty (Pantazis, Gordon & Levitas 2006). The United Nations (UN) also adopts a similar understanding of poverty by saying that the concept is “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information” (United Nations Development Programme 2006, p. 5). The main difference between this definition and other definitions of poverty highlighted in this paper is the broad understanding of the concept. Stated differently, other researchers use a narrow definition of socioeconomic factors (such as the lack of income) to define poverty, while the basic needs approach constructs poverty through a wider realm of factors that affect human well-being.
Poverty as an inescapable political act
Many researchers have often explored the relationship between poverty and politics (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Most of them say that poverty is an inescapably political act. Global institutions, such as the UN, also hold the same view. For example, the UN has often argued that poverty rarely exists in “politically mature” democracies (such as Europe) (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Conversely, they argue that poor countries, which do not have “politically mature” democracies, report the highest levels of poverty. This argument further stretches to social and political structures. For example, many researchers believe that poverty is a product of extreme capitalistic societies (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). This view closely aligns with the Marxist school of thought, but the United Nations Development Programme (2006) defines it as the Anglo-Saxon preoccupation. Proponents of such views say that capitalistic structures create significant wage differentials that limit people’s growth opportunities (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). Therefore, people who are born in poverty find it difficult to escape this cycle because of structural limitations (caused by capitalistic systems). The United Nations Development Programme (2006) expounds on this analysis by saying that political structures (representative of capitalistic societies) need an “industrial reserve army,” which owners of factors of production can use and dispose at their will. Since researchers have different reservations regarding the factuality of this view, its proponents argue that political structures created poverty by relating it to income (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). They also say that although poverty existed before the creation of these capitalistic structures, it was mainly limited to life-cycle changes (such as elderly people experiencing the highest rates of poverty) (United Nations Development Programme 2006).
The freedoms approach
Understanding poverty through people’s ability to live freely and valuable lives emerged from critiques of the income approach to poverty. Its proponents believed that reducing poverty to income deprivation was a shallow understanding of the concept (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Instead, they argued that poverty was a broad concept that included people’s liberties and their enjoyment of the same. For example, the Sen’s capability approach uses the same premise to define poverty (United Nations Development Programme 2006). The UN has also used this approach to construct the human development index (United Nations Development Programme 2006). This approach rejects income deprivation as the main proxy for understanding poverty. Comparatively, it proposes an alternative approach of constructing poverty as the deprivation of the freedom to live a valuable life.
Poverty as the lack of wealth
Researchers have defined poverty as the lack of wealth (or little wealth). Proponents of this view also define poverty as the inability to consume goods and services (low purchasing power) (Misturelli & Heffernan 2010). Additionally, this definition also includes no (or poor) access to quality services. The subsistence conception of poverty emerged from Victorian England when nutritionists defined poverty as people’s inability to have an income that could maintain their physical health (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Although people had other needs, such as shelter and clothing, subsistence was the main proxy for defining poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (2006) says, although this understanding is old, it has influenced scientific dogma for more than ten decades. For example, statistical figures used to describe the social conditions of different countries have often used subsistence measures to do so. International agencies still use the same measure today. Past British territories used the same measure to rule their colonies. For example, former British authorities used the measure to determine the wages of black people in South Africa (during the apartheid era). They also used the same model to frame development plans in Asian colonies (United Nations Development Programme 2006).
How to measure poverty
Poverty measurement metrics mainly depend on the multiple definitions of the concept. Furthermore, different countries have varying measurements of the concept. For example, some European countries measure poverty by evaluating national statistics regarding the number of people who apply for social welfare support (United Nations Development Programme 2006). Most of these measurement metrics relate to the construction of poverty as a lack of income. For example, Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith (2013) say many European countries use income metrics to define at-risk-populations of poverty. Others define poverty-stricken people as those that earn less than 60% of the national median of disposable income (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). Other measures of poverty align with the “basic needs” approach of poverty. However, this analysis is contextual because different parts of the world have different types of basic needs. For example, Europeans may define their basic needs as an annual holiday, quality food, and adequate housing (among other factors) (Vecernik 2004). Therefore, here, it is difficult to define relative poverty as merely lacking enough resources to survive. In this regard, relative measurements make it difficult for statisticians to compare the rate of poverty across different regions.
This paper shows that most definitions of poverty align with the “resource view” (gaining access to resources, or lacking them). This paper has also shown that some researchers define poverty as an inescapable political act. Although mature democracies have low levels of poverty, it is misleading to argue that such democracies do not suffer from poverty at all. Furthermore, these countries still grapple with inequality challenges, despite their low levels of poverty. In fact, these countries use a relative definition of poverty (Talbot, Madanipour & Shucksmith 2013). An interesting finding about this analysis is that most professionals (“non-poor” people) developed most of the definitions of poverty outlined in this paper. In other words, their definitions of poverty are expressions of their training and educational skills. In fact, such definitions reflect the power of development professionals to define poverty based on their perceptions. This is an unfair representation of the concept because poor people should have the power to define it.
Based on the findings of this paper, safely, one could say that the definition of poverty depends on who is asking, how people understand it, and the type of audience. However, income is at the centre of the definition because, historically, people have used it to define the concept. However, based on the varied views and constructs of poverty, and its relation to income, the latter is no less problematic than the concept of poverty itself. Nonetheless, based on an overall assessment of the findings of this paper, correctly, one could say that poverty affects income-deprived people who are unable to gain access to quality life determinants, such as quality food and shelter. Therefore, a correct (or informed) understanding of poverty cannot merely depend on an abstract understanding of low income as the main proxy. Therefore, to understand the real measurement, or definition, of income, it is crucial to identify a specific income level, beyond which people experience deprivation.
Misturelli, F & Heffernan, C 2010, ‘The concept of poverty a synchronic perspective’, Progress in Development Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 35-58. Pantazis, C, Gordon, D & Levitas, R 2006, Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain , The Policy Press, Bristol. Talbot, H, Madanipour, A & Shucksmith, M 2013, The Territorial Dimension of Poverty and Social Exclusion in Europe, University of Newcastle, New Castle. United Nations Development Programme 2006, Poverty in Focus , < https://ipcig.org/pub/IPCPovertyInFocus9.pdf >. Vecernik, J 2004, ‘Who Is Poor in the Czech Republic? The Changing Structure and Faces of Poverty after 1989’, Czech Sociological Review , vol. 40, no. 6, pp. 807–834.
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Strategies to Measure Poverty
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Sample essay on poverty.
Poverty is a common social issue that has troubled nations for thousands of years. While nations like the United States of America have worked diligently to eradicate it domestically, it still widely exists internationally. The following essay on poverty presents a few arguments from prominent scholars regarding solutions to poverty and should prove especially valuable to those readers considering buying an essay for their own use. Take note how this writer has stressed the importance of noting that while the challenges facing poverty are daunting, the solutions are feasible and can happen.
Poverty: A multifaceted issue
Poverty has been a consistent problem throughout history. No matter what the median income, unemployment or overall prosperity level is, there will always be people who are homeless and hungry. Despite being one of the most prosperous countries in the world, the United States is not immune to it either. Even today, there are still people struggling to find shelter, feed their kids and find warm clothing. For children, growing up in poverty conditions can have adverse effects that last a lifetime. This social problem has various impacts on different institutions and people. However, there are feasible solutions that are available to alleviate this social problem. In discussing poverty in the United States, the following essay utilizes three major perspectives: the general condition, the emerging middle class poverty and the relationship between small businesses and strategic measures to alleviate poverty.
As you can see, there are over a billion people living in poverty around the world.
America's stagnant poverty line
According to Howard Glennerster in "United States Poverty Studies and Poverty Measurement: The Past Twenty-Five Years," poverty has been a steady condition in United States history. Not only that, but today there is even more discussion focused on the “culture and race of poverty” (Glennerster, 10). More and more aid seems to be going to minorities in which there is a high density (such as African-American or Hispanic communities). Moreover, the attention has also been placed on women on welfare ( click here to read about how poverty impacts teen pregnancy rates). This segment of the population has retracted to working multiple jobs while taking care of children (Glennerster, 13). Therefore, in the mainstream sense of the term, Glennerster attributed a majority poverty related issues to minorities and single mothers. This mainstream analysis indicates the general level of poverty that is evident in most countries as well.
Allan Singer, in "Business Strategy and Poverty Alleviation," focused on the issue of poverty with regard to small business owners who don’t have these social problems integrated with their own interests. For instance, he boldly claims that “entrepreneurs and corporations overwhelmingly do not view the alleviation of global poverty as a strategic priority” (Singer, 225). Essentially, personal interests overcome the need to help others. Interestingly enough, Singer does not label poverty as a lack of income or assets, but an issue of “capability-deprivation” because of the circumstances some people are born under (Singer 226). Singer views this perspective as an unfair facet because people do not have control over their futures based on sociological limitations of their location or demographic ( read more about how unemployment impacts young adults). Finally, he placed emphasis on the role of government and businesses to alleviate this issue.
Blaming the recent economic crisis
Finally, Stephanie Chen, in "The New Hungry: College-Educated, Middle-Class Cope With Food Insecurity," maintains her position on poverty from the perspective of a recently bogged down economy . She argued that “more than 50 million American were living in a food insecure home at some point in 2009” (Chen, 1). She compares this to the 36 million in 2006. The main dilemma that these poverty stricken individuals face is whether to pay their mortgages or put food on the table. Surely, Chen focuses her discussion not on the minorities or single mothers, but on the working class families that are struggling. Her evidence comes from the hundreds of food banks across the country that is struggling to meet demands from various areas of the spectrum from the homeless to the middle class (Chen, 2).
These three perspectives offer a wide range of social problems resulting from poverty . For instance, Glennerster’s perspective on minorities places the blame like a laser beam of Hispanics and African-Americans. As a result, the widely launched government aid programs were targeted towards these minorities (Glennerster, 10). Consequently, this raises the larger issue of generalization and racism. If the country’s resources are being utilized for a specific segment of the population, then it singles them out for extraneous scrutiny by those not reaping the tax payer benefits.
Moreover, since small businesses (even custom writing services like Ultius ) are the primary catalysts of jobs, Singer argues that the major consequences of greedy business owners are that they are not helping the job creation process enough (Singer, 226). Also, this process also puts duress on governments to intervene either positively or negatively to encourage businesses to foster job creation. Finally, the middle class poverty issue is primarily affecting the local state and city governments that are under pressure to fund and supply food banks for people that don’t have the means to do so (Chen, 3). Therefore, the issue of poverty under these perspectives influences not only local and state governments, businesses, but also people’s attitudes towards those suffering from poverty.
Big liberal government as solution to poverty
The solutions presented by all three articles indicate that government intervention is the solution. For instance, Glennerster cited that poverty management over the past twenty-five years has been alleviated by government programs targeted towards specific demographics (Glennerster, 14). He also offered solutions by enhancing education levels in order to promote a long term solution. Conversely, Singer argued that since governments have control over tax payer dollars and small businesses have control over job creation; the solution would be derived from the synergy of these two institutions working together (Singer, 227). Furthermore, by utilizing funding and coordinating business strategy to help alleviate poverty, the cooperative partnerships between these two entities would surely help promote long term job growth. Finally, while Chen doesn’t offer a direct solution, the context of middle class poverty reflects that only short term support is needed. Therefore, by helping food banks and local city governments push through enhanced demand for the short term, this would suffice until a long term solution has been found.
The evidence suggests that these solutions would, in time improve the social condition of poverty. By first focusing on short term alleviation through food banks and local city support, the immediate issue of feeding people would be met. For the long-term, the government would play a very influential role in helping stimulate employment (like through community education ). This would require the help and partnership of small businesses with interests that align with the federal government. Finally, as long as short term aid is readily replaceable with long term solutions, poverty can be eliminated.
The following sample essay on poverty was brought to you by Ultius, the platform that matches you with qualified freelance writers for editing and essay writing services .
Glennerster, Howard. "United States Poverty Studies and Poverty Measurement: The Past Twenty-Five Years." The Social Service Review 76.1 (2002): 1-26. JSTOR. Web. 7 Mar. 2011.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/324609>
Singer, Alan. "Business Strategy and Poverty Alleviation." Journal of Business Ethics 66.2/3 (2006): 225-231. JSTOR . Web. 7 Mar. 2011.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/25123827>
Chen, Stephanie. “The New Hungry: College-Educated, Middle-Class Cope With Food Insecurity.” CNN . 13 Dec. 2010. CNN. 7 Mar. 2011. <http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/food.insecurity.holidays.middle.class/index.html>
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Quantitative Measure Of Poverty Critical Thinking Examples
Type of paper: Critical Thinking
Topic: Social Issues , Nation , Human , Society , Development , Taxes , Poverty , World
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Income and consumption ways of measuring poverty
In spite of over a century research on poverty, the subject remains a big challenge. Indeed, the 21st-century has been recognized as the century for confronting the subject. Poverty is increasingly recognized as a multifaceted subject in both the complexity and character. This form of poverty elucidates quantitative measures in order to analyze (Hayati et al, 2008 p. 372). The income and consumption approach of measuring poverty mainly uses the structured family, society, and national samples in order to collect and analyze (Headey, 2008 p. 25) The poverty line marks an important element in the income and consumption approach as it helps to demarcate relative and absolute poverty. The form of quantitative measure uses varied forms of econometric techniques in order to quantify poverty in a snapshot study of any region (Hayati et al, 2008 p. 374). According to the World Bank report, income and consumption measure of poverty provides understanding of intra-house dimensions. This data collected during this survey reveals the purchasing power of every family setting a numerical parameter for measuring the purchasing power parity among the households (Hansen & Kneale, 2013 p. 1120). The income and consumer approach provides the best mechanism for revealing poverty gap of individuals and the society. This econometric approach uses the top-down technique in order to refine greater details and provide specific issues causing poverty and how to counteract them. The quantitative approach also takes a great measure in the big mac index and reveals the some of the most striking relationships that exist between the wealthy individuals and nations across a region or globe. These quantitative econometric results are valid enough to show how headcount index may be used to alleviate poverty. Despite all these strengths, income and consumption approach on measuring poverty has proved to be one of the most complex and challenging approaches
United Nation Development Programme (UNDP)
The United Nation Development programmes in their quest achieve the Millennium Development Goals across the globe; believes that they are uniquely positioned to advocate economic change across nations (MENA Report 2014). In this context, poverty measure and reduction has one of the mandates to drive the transformation. The program relies globalization is most fundament component in achieving these goals (Mitra, 2013 p. 1081). The program operates exclusively to make real life improvements and promote sustainable human development. In their snapshot study, it is revealed that Human Development Index HDI is the better than the “GDP per capita” in measuring socio-economic progress (Schimmel, 2009 p. 97). In order to determine the poverty level beyond the income-based list, the UNDP a more complex Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Clark 2010, in her work, “How Can We End Poverty” believes that the Multidimensional Poverty Index approach is capable of reflecting various deprivations/ indicators that may add up to 33% that are core functioning unlike the Human Development Index Human Development Index and GDP. This approach also uses the econometric qualitative measures on the top-down technique in order to refine greater details and provide specific issues causing poverty in the society and how to counteract them. Further, the UNDP uses the Multidimensional Poverty index (MPI) to show the various deprivations patterns of poverty across the globe (Schimmel, 2009 p. 97). However, it is also important to note that the UNDP requires high level of econometrics on both the monetary and non-monetary variables in order to achieve its potential indication. In conclusion, as a result of complexity of measuring poverty phenomena, it is important for scholars and researchers to specialize in both methods of analysis (Jorgenson, 1998 p. 80). Mastering these analysis methods are expected to provide individual and national growth across the globe and ultimately realize the Millennium Development Goal.
Hayati, D., Karami, E. & Slee, B. 2006, "Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in the Measurement of Rural Poverty: The Case of Iran", Social Indicators Research, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 361-394. Headey, B. 2008, "Poverty Is Low Consumption and Low Wealth, Not Just Low Income", Social Indicators Research, vol. 89, no. 1, pp. 23-39. Hansen, K. & Kneale, D. 2013, "Does How You Measure Income Make a Difference to Measuring Poverty? Evidence from the UK", Social Indicators Research, vol. 110, no. 3, pp. 1119-1140. How Can We End Poverty? Join the Global Conversation with UNDP Administrator Helen Clark on Facebook 2010, Washington, D.C Jorgenson, D.W. 1998, "Did we lose the war on poverty?” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 79-96. Mitra, S., Jones, K., Vick, B., Brown, D. & al, e. 2013, "Implementing a Multidimensional Poverty Measure Using Mixed Methods and a Participatory Framework", Social Indicators Research, vol. 110, no. 3, pp. 1061-1081. Schimmel, J. 2009, "Development as Happiness: The Subjective Perception of Happiness and UNDP's Analysis of Poverty, Wealth and Development", Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 93-111. United States : UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative Leads the Way Towards an Inclusive Green Economy", 2014, MENA Report, . .
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Home / Essay Samples / Education / Inequality in Education / Education, Inequality, And Poverty
Education, Inequality, And Poverty
- Category: Social Issues , Education
- Subcategory: Human Rights , Learning
- Topic: Gender Inequality , Inequality , Inequality in Education
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Facts: The effects of education on Poverty
- Reduced inequality in income
- Reduced stunting
- Growth of the economy
- Reduced maternal and infant deaths
- Reduced violence in society and home
- Reduced HIV and AIDS vulnerability in humans
Skills and Abilities are developed by Education
Education can be used to combat inequality, with education, risk and vulnerability can be decreased, provision of education for all, inequality in education.
- Differences in a student’s socio-economic status
- Differences in the cultural, social, and economic status influence the achievements of students in math, science, as well as reading skills. These factors reflect the inequality in education from differences in the cultural, social, and economic status of secondary school students. These differences include parent’s highest occupational status, parent’s household wealth, and the view of parents towards the highest level of education, etc.
- Differences in cultural property ownership and employment
- The employment status of parents, as well as the cultural property ownership in the home, is another factor affecting the inequality in education.
- Differences in educational resources and participation
- This has to do with the percentage of students that can scale science that is related to the educational level of the father and mother, and the number of educational resources they own.
- The educational investment of the government
- This is another important factor affecting the gap in education. This has to do with the amount of public spending as well as the financial investment in the Gross domestic product (GDP). This could be one of the main factors causing educational inequality
- Differences in the educational levels of parents
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