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A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in Jakarta, Indonesia  shows his find.
A boy from an East Cipinang trash dump slum in Jakarta, Indonesia shows his find.
Poverty is understood in many senses. The main understandings of the term include
  • Descriptions of material need, typically including the necessities for daily living (eg. food, clothing, shelter, education and health care), relative to some other reference group. Poverty in this sense may be understood as the deprivation of essential goods and services, multiple deprivation, or patterns of deprivation over time.
  • Economic circumstances, describing a lack of wealth (usually understood as capital, money, material goods, or resources, especially natural resources). The meaning of "sufficient" varies widely across the different political and economic parts of the world. In the European Union, poverty is also described in terms of "economic distance", or inequality.
  • Social relationships, including social exclusion, dependency, and the ability to live what is understood in a society as a "normal" life: for instance, to be capable of raising a healthy family, and especially educating children and participating in society.
Those who live in conditions of poverty lack a wide range of economic and other resources and may be described as "poor" or "impoverished". Some see the term as subjective and comparative, others see it as moral and evaluative, while others consider that it is scientifically established (see income inequality metrics).There are varying degrees or levels of poverty. The Copenhagen Declaration describes absolute poverty as "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information." The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ ( PPP) 1 per day, and poverty as less than a day.As of 2001, this meant that 21% of the world population (or about 1.1 billion people) was living in extreme poverty, and more than 50% were living in poverty. [1] By comparison, in 1981, 1.5 billion people were living in extreme poverty (40% of world population); in 1987, 1.227 billion people (30%); and in 1993, 1.314 billion people (29%).It is estimated that about 8 million people die each year because they are too poor to survive. [2] Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 is a Millennium Development Goal.

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Uses of the term
World poverty
Causes of poverty
Eliminating poverty
Debates about poverty

Uses of the term - Contents

Washing clothes in Mumbai
Washing clothes in Mumbai
  • In economics, conventional discourse focuses on two kinds of poverty: absolute poverty and relative poverty (see poverty line). Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context. A reduction in absolute poverty is compatible with an increase in relative poverty. Poverty is measured either by indices of consumption or of income. Some countries, like the US measure poverty by identifying a minimum dietary or basket of goods; the US poverty line is based on a multiplier of dietary costs. The main conventional measure used in the OECD and the European Union, however, is based on "economic distance", a level of income set at 50% or 60% of the median household income. In the latter case, the number of people counted as poor could increase while their income rise.
  • In politics, the fight against poverty is usually regarded as a social goal and many governments have — secondarily at least — some dedicated institutions or departments. Active interventions may include housing plans, social pensions, special job opportunities, or requirements.
  • In law, there has been a movement to seek to establish universal "human rights" which aim to eliminate poverty.
  • In education, poverty affects a student's ability to effectively profit from the learning environments. Especially for younger students coming from poverty, their primary needs as described in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs; the need for a safe and stable home, clothes on their backs, and regular meals clouds a student's ability to learn. Furthermore, in education circles there is a term used to characterize the phenomenon of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer (as it relates to education but easily transfers to poverty in general) called the Matthew effect.
Related debates on a states' human capital and a person's individual capital tend likewise to focus on access to the instructional capital and social capital available only to those educated in such formal systems.

World poverty - Contents

A group of impoverished Russians butchering a dog for food.
A group of impoverished Russians butchering a dog for food.
The Borgen Project points out that while the U.S. government spends over 0 billion dollars a year on military contracts, only billion a year is needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of ending severe poverty by 2015. [3]Poverty may be seen as the collective condition of poor people, or of poor groups, and in this sense entire nation-states are sometimes regarded as poor. To avoid stigma these are usually called developing nations, but this too is considered derogatory by some.Maps of world poverty can be found at There is evidence of poverty in every region. In developed countries, this condition results in wandering homeless people and poor suburbs (with so-called bidonvilles or favelas) in which poor people are—more or less—restricted to a ghetto. See List of countries by poverty.

Causes of poverty - Contents

Many factors have been raised to explain how poverty occurs.
  • Structural causes, as the result of the social preconditions such as:
    • Economic factors;
    • Geographic factors
    • Government corruption
    • War, including genocide, democide, and politicide;
    • Lack of property rights
    • Education and skills
    • Age discrimination
    • Gender discrimination
    • Racial discrimination
    • Excessive taxation [4]
  • Familial causes, which attribute poverty to upbringing;
  • Subcultural causes, which attribute poverty to common patterns of life, learned or shared within a community;
  • Individual, or " pathological" causes, behaviour or choices of individuals.

Eliminating poverty - Contents

The main responses to poverty are:
  • Donating aid directly to those in need. This has been part of the approach of European societies since the middle ages. [ citation needed] For example, the relief of poverty was recognised as a legal charitable purpose by the English Statute of Charitable Uses (Statute of Elizabeth) in 1601.
  • Responding to individual circumstances. A variety of measures have been taken to change the situation of poor people on an individual basis, through education, employment, social work efforts and other measures.
  • Social protection, or provision for contingencies, where categories of people who are most at risk of economic hardship, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, are assisted through the provision of resources or services.
  • Strategic intervention, where the poor are encouraged to help themselves, and are supported with focused and specific measures, such as political participation, community organizing, urban regeneration and the development of social capital.
  • Economic development. The anti-poverty strategy of the World Bank [5] depends heavily on preventing poverty through the promotion of economic growth, essentially on the basis that "a rising tide lifts all boats". Business groups see the reduction of barriers to the creation of new businesses [6], or reducing barriers for existing business, has the effect of bringing more people into the formal economy. However, many consider that the laissez-faire philosophy underlying this approach does not actively or directly work to reduce or eliminate poverty, and that for many, the "rising tide" adage may be more accurately expressed as "a rising tide sinks those who are held down".
Most developing countries have produced Poverty Reduction Strategy papers or PRSPs [7]. In addition to broader approaches, the Sachs Report (for the UN Millennium Project) [8] proposes a series of "quick wins", approaches identified by development experts which would cost relatively little but could have a major constructive effect on world poverty. The quick wins are:
  • Eliminating school fees.
  • Providing soil nutrients to farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Free school meals for schoolchildren.
  • Supporting breast-feeding.
  • Deworming school children in affected areas.
  • Training programmes for community health in rural areas.
  • Providing mosquito nets.
  • Ending user fees for basic health care in developing countries.
  • Access to information on sexual and reproductive health.
  • Drugs for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
  • Upgrading slums, and providing land for public housing.
  • Access to electricity, water and sanitation.
  • Legislation for women’s rights, including rights to property.
  • Action against domestic violence.
  • Appointing government scientific advisors in every country.
  • Planting trees.
In his book "The End of Poverty", world renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs laid out a lucid plan to eradicate global poverty by the year 2025. Following his doctrine, international organizations such as the Global Solidarity Network are helping end poverty working with governments and partners to help eradicate poverty worldwide with known, proven, reliable, and appropriate interventions in the areas of housing, food, education, basic health, agricultural inputs, safe drinking water, transportation and communications.

Debates about poverty - Contents

In many developed countries the official definition of poverty used for statistical purposes is based on relative income. As such many critics argue that poverty statistics measure inequality rather than material deprivation or hardship. For example the Henderson Poverty Line frequently used in Australia is a relative measurment [9]. Such income based measures also frequently take no account of wealth.The underlying causes of poverty is a controversial, politicized issue. Those with conservative or right wing views typically consider that poverty results from personal choices or preferences, the breakdown of " traditional values", lack of birth control, and over-interference by government.Those with more liberal or left wing views typically see poverty as the result of many systemic factors unrelated to personal choices or preferences, that poverty is a matter of social justice and lack of opportunity (particularly in education), and that it is often the lack of government intervention which impacts on poverty levels. They also question the inconsistency of implying that more birth control measures should be used, when conservative policies may also tend to discourage the use of birth control on religious or moral grounds.The condition in itself is not always considered negatively, even if this is the prevalent interpretation within a given society: some cultural or religious groups consider poverty an ideal condition in which to live, for a example; a condition necessary in order to reach certain spiritual or intellectual states. Poverty in this sense is understood as the lack of material possessions. For some orders this is equivalent to voluntary simplicity: Mother Teresa said that a vow of poverty "frees us from all material possessions". However, a vow of poverty traditionally goes beyond that. The Dominicans "lived a life of voluntary poverty, exposing themselves to innumerable dangers and sufferings, for the salvation of others." ( Honorius III, 1217).There are also several different ways to measure poverty (see income inequality metrics).German social scientist Richard Albrecht recently gave a theoretical overview on "pauper/ism" within advanced capitalist societies according to that "late modern age" ( Anthony Giddens) as sketched as a grounded concept by Karl Marx named "relative Übervölkerung" (relative overpopulation). Moreover, this essay sketches within current German society an empirical "poverty line" which also includes "working poor". [10] [11]
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