What is Poverty
The lesson on poverty is a complex one because there is no easy way, or standard definition of who is poor and who is not, although we look at the living conditions of people to get an idea of their situation. Typically, it is when someone experiences a fundamental deprivation in well-being.
Each time you see images on TV and on the internet with hungry people with no food, running water, often in tattered clothing and no shoes, living in mud houses in run-down communities (slums), you begin to have a sense of what poverty looks like. This lowest condition is called Absolute poverty.
Sometimes, a researcher can look at an individual, family or community in comparison to the living standards of the broader community, and classify them as poor, if the researcher finds that their needs are way below that of everyone else in the community. In this case, the researcher does the classification, and it is very relative in nature. Experts call this ‘Relative Poverty’
People and families are allowed to make their own judgments into their living conditions, in relation to the general living standards of the communities in which they live. You can see a family who owns a bicycle considering themselves as being among the well-to-do in the community. In another scenario, they can consider themselves at being among the poorest in the community, if they compare themselves to other members of the community. This is subjective poverty.
Here is what a great social scientist in this subject describes what poverty is:
‘Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies in which they belong.’ — Peter Townsend
The above definition will help us look a bit more into details at the various ways in which poverty can understood.