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Encyclopedia > Poverty line
Map of countries showing percentage of population who have an income below the national poverty line
Map of countries showing percentage of population who have an income below the national poverty line

The poverty line is the level of income below which one cannot afford to purchase all the resources one requires to live. People who have an income below the poverty line have no discretionary disposable income, by definition. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1265x629, 32 KB) Summary List of countries by percentage of population living in poverty. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1265x629, 32 KB) Summary List of countries by percentage of population living in poverty. ... Income, generally defined, is the money that is received as a result of the normal business activities of an individual or a business. ... World map showing percentage of people living under national poverty lines. ... Disposable income is the amount of an individuals total income left after taxes, plus any transfer payments (grants) received from the government or elsewhere. ...

It is widely discussed how and where to set the poverty line. In practice, different countries often use different poverty lines. Globally, however, it is more common to use only one poverty line in order to compare economic welfare levels. When comparing poverty across countries, the purchasing power parity exchange rates are used. These are used because poverty levels otherwise would change with the normal exchange rates. Thus, 'living for under $1 a day' should be understood as having a daily total consumption of goods and services comparable to the amount of goods and services that can be bought in the U.S. for $1, not the amount that can be bought in the respective country for the national equivalent of $1. Self-produced goods and public services are included in this measure. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services. ...

Almost all societies have some citizens living in poverty. The poverty line is useful as an economic tool with which to measure such people and consider socioeconomic reforms such as welfare and unemployment insurance to reduce poverty. Welfare is financial assistance paid by the government to certain entities or groups of people who are unable to support themselves alone, or are perceived by the government to do be able to do function more effectively with financial assistance. ... Unemployment benefits are sums of money given to the unemployed by the government or a compulsory para-governmental insurance system. ...

Determining the poverty line is usually done by finding the total cost of all the essential resources that an average human adult consumes in one year. This approach is needs-based in that an assessment is made of the minimum expenditure needed to maintain a tolerable life. This was the original basis of the poverty line in the United States, whose poverty line has since been raised due to inflation. In developing countries, the most expensive of these resources is typically the rent required to live in an apartment. Economists thus pay particular attention to the real estate market and housing prices because of their strong influence on the poverty line. In the United States, official statistics on poverty and the official poverty line are kept by the US Census Bureau. ...

Individual factors are often used to handle various circumstances, such as whether one is a parent, elderly, a child, married, etc.


Problems with using a poverty line

Using a poverty line is problematic because having an income marginally above it is not substantially different from having an income marginally below it: the negative effects of poverty tend to be continuous rather than discrete, and the same low income affects different people in different ways. To overcome this poverty indexes are sometimes used instead; see income inequality metrics. The word discrete comes from the Latin word discretus which means separate. ... Income inequality metrics or income distribution metrics are techniques used by economists to measure the distribution of income among members of a society. ...

A poverty line relies on a quantitative, or purely numbers based measure of income. If other human development-indicators like health and education shall be used, they must be quantified, not a simple (if even achievable) task. A quantitative property is one that exists in a range of magnitudes, and can therefore be measured. ...

Defining poverty lines

Poverty lines can be defined in different ways:

  • Social Security benefit based. If a government guarantees to make income up to some particular level then it may be presumed that that level is the poverty line. This is a problematic definition, because an uncharitable government may reduce the guaranteed income, thus reducing the incidence of poverty so defined while increasing the incidence of actual poverty.
  • A relative income line, related to some fraction of typical incomes. This excludes the wealthiest individuals from the calculation. For example, the OECD and the European Union uses 60% of national median equivalised household income.
  • A relative figure fixed in time and only adjusted for inflation - thus avoiding the possibility that if income inequality increases, then poverty may otherwise also increase.
  • When the World Bank calculates its "$1 a day" statistics, it uses a poverty line.

For specific national programs, see Social Security (United States), National insurance (UK), Social Security (Sweden) Social security primarily refers to a field of social welfare concerned with social protection, or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment, families with children and others. ... In mathematics, a fraction is a way of expressing a quantity based on an amount that is divided into a number of equal-sized parts. ... The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an international organization of those developed countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and a free market economy. ... In probability theory and statistics, the median is a number that separates the higher half of a sample, a population, or a probability distribution from the lower half. ... Logo of the World Bank The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, in Romance languages: BIRD), better known as the World Bank, is an international organization whose original mission was to finance the reconstruction of nations devastated by WWII. Now, its mission has expanded to fight poverty by means...

Absolute poverty

A measure of absolute poverty quantifies the number of people below a poverty line, and this poverty line is independent of time and place. For the measure to be absolute, the line must be the same in different countries. Such an absolute measure should look only at the individuals power to consume and it should be independent of any changes in income distribution. Such a measure is only possible when all consumed goods and services are counted and when PPP-exchange rates are used (see purchasing power parity). The intuition behind an absolute measure is that mere survival takes the same amount of good across the world and that everybody should be subject to the same standards if meaningful comparisons of policies and progress are to be made. Notice that if everyone's real income in an economy increases, and the income distribution does not change, absolute poverty will decline. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... The Lorenz curve was developed by Max O. Lorenz in 1905 as a graphical representation of income distribution. ...

Furthermore, the rate of absolute poverty can decline even though inequality is increasing - as long as the poorest get a higher real income than they had before.

This type of measure is often contrasted with measures of relative poverty (see below), which classify individuals or families as "poor" not by comparing them to a fixed cutoff point, but by comparing them to others in the population under study. (The term absolute poverty is also sometimes used as a synonym for extreme poverty.) Extreme poverty is a severe state of poverty in which people are unable to purchase even basic human necessities, such as food, clothes, and shelter. ...

Relative poverty

See also: Relative deprivation

A measure of relative poverty definines "poverty" as being below some relative poverty line. An example is when poverty is defined as households who earn less than 25% of the median income is a measure of relative poverty. Notice that if everyone's real income in an economy increases, but the income distribution stays the same, relative poverty will also stay the same. Relative deprivation is a term used by sociologists to describe feelings or measures of economic, political, or social deprivation that are relative rather than absolute. ... The Lorenz curve was developed by Max O. Lorenz in 1905 as a graphical representation of income distribution. ...

Measures of relative poverty are almost the same as measuring inequality: If a society gets a more equal income distribution, relative poverty will fall. Following this, some argue that the term 'Relative Poverty' is itself misleading and that 'Inequality' should be used instead. They point out that if society changed in a way that hurt high earners more than low ones, then 'relative poverty' would decrease but every citizen of the society would be worse off. Likewise in the reverse direction: over the last few centuries, many countries have lowered their absolute poverty while increasing their relative poverty.

The phrase relative poverty can also be used in a different sense to mean "moderate poverty". For example, a standard of living or level of income which is higher than what is needed to satisfy basic needs (like water, food, clothing, shelter, and basic health care), but which is still significantly lower than that of the majority of the population under consideration. A girl in a swimming pool Water (from the Old English waeter; c. ... Men and women wearing suits, an example of one of the many modern forms of clothing (from the 1937 Chicago Woolen Mills catalog) Clothing is optional, in its broadest sense, as coverings for the torso and limbs as well as coverings for the hands (gloves), feet (socks, shoes, sandals, boots... Shelter can refer to several things: Look up shelter on Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Health care or healthcare is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical, nursing, and allied health professions [1]. The organised provision of such services may constitute a healthcare system. ...


Ray, Debraj 1998, Development Economics, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691017069.

See also

This is a list of countries by percentage of the population living below poverty line. ...

External links

  • Poverty Indicators, Statistics & Measurement
  • History of the U.S. Poverty Line by Tom Gentle, Oregon State University.

  Results from FactBites:
CBC News In Depth: Economy (1894 words)
Critics of the use of the LICO as a benchmark for poverty say the 63 per cent level is arbitrary and doesn't translate to a state of destitute poverty.
Poverty activists argue that it's possible to reduce relative poverty without moving to a completely communist system.
Sarlo defines poverty as lacking the means for the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter and clothing, and criticizes the use of LICOs as a poverty line.
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