Poverty as Social Deprivation: A Survey

By Mabughi, Nyiwul; Selim, Tarek | Review of Social Economy, June 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Poverty as Social Deprivation: A Survey

Mabughi, Nyiwul, Selim, Tarek, Review of Social Economy

Abstract The concept of poverty is discussed using qualitative and quantitative measures as an indicator for social deprivation. Poverty can be absolute, relative, income based, consumption based, or entitlement based. The variation in the concept of poverty reveals its dimensionality. However, when closely examined, these dimensions are seen to be conceptually interrelated and complementary rather than substitutable. The concept used to define poverty determines the methods employed to measure it. Composite indicators can hide important policy messages inherent in their constituent variables.

Keywords: poverty, social deprivation, Sen's entitlements, human development


The theme of this paper is to provide a normative review of the concept of poverty as social deprivation. Since poverty has numerous social dimensions, a multiple dimensional survey of the poverty concept is presented. The evolution of the concept of poverty from absolute pauperism and physical efficiency to a relative standard of living, and its further conceptual development towards social entitlements and well being within the greater human development literature is fully explained. In general, this paper describes the conceptual evolution of the poverty issue by examining the range and development of the means and measurement of evaluating its many dimensions.

Poverty, in general economic reasoning, can be defined as social deprivation from a decent quality of life. Poverty has qualitative as well as quantitative dimensions. In the literature, poverty is interpreted as income based, consumption based, or, alternatively, entitlement based. The concept of poverty has a very long history and a rich vocabulary. Early studies on poverty in the 20th century can be traced back to Booth's (1892) pauperism and analysis of town life in Rowntree's (1901) work who initially defined poverty in terms of "physical efficiency"--a physiological standard referring to a prescribed "basket of goods." Rowntree's definition provides a framework for surveys conducted by Bowley. Nevertheless, by 1965, another philosopher, Townsend, contradicted Rowntree's definition and adopted a relative rather than an absolute standard of poverty. Townsend and Smith (1965) argues that "individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diets, participate in the activities and have the living conditions which are customary, or at least widely encouraged and approved, in the societies to which they belong."

In Harrington's (1962) The Other America and Galbraith's (1958) The Affluent Society, much was said to arouse the attention of the public, the politicians, and especially academics about the importance of poverty to economic development. The 1964 report of the Council of Economic Advisers set out a $3,000 poverty line, drawing heavily on the research of Orshansky (1965). With more emphasis on the poverty line, the focus in the 1960s was on the level of disposable income, which was reflected in macroeconomic indicators like Gross National Product (GNP) per capita and with an emphasis on per-capita income growth (Eatwell 1987).

In the 1970s, political debate, especially within the World Bank and academic research in major universities, helped reshape the whole concept of poverty (Maxwell 1999). Further emphasis on relative deprivation, inspired in the UK by Runciman, helped redefine poverty as not just a failure to meet minimum nutrition or subsistence, but rather as a failure to keep up with the standards prevalent in a given society. Another important shift at this time was a broadening of the concept of income poverty to a wider set of "basic needs," including those provided within the socio-economic environment. Following the International Labour Organization's (ILO's) pioneering work in the mid 1970s, poverty came to be defined not just as lack of income but also as a lack of access to health, education, and basic social services deemed necessary for survival.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Poverty as Social Deprivation: A Survey


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?