Poverty is being without things, having little money, not many material possessions and in need of essential goods.

Poverty is understood in many senses. [1] The main understandings of the term include:
  • Descriptions of material need, typically including the necessities of daily living (food, clothing, shelter, and health care). Poverty in this sense may be understood as a condition in which a person or community is deprived of, and or lacks the essentials for a minimum standard of well-being and life. These essentials may be material resources such as food, safe drinking water, and shelter, or they may be social resources such as access to information, education, health care, social status, political power,[2] or the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with other people in society.[3]
  • Descriptions of social relationships and need, including social exclusion [4], dependency [5], and the ability to participate in society.[6] This would include education and information.
  • Describing a (persistent) lack of income and wealth. The World Bank, for example, uses a global indicator of incomes of $1 or $2 a day. In relative terms disparities in income or wealth income disparities are seen as an indicator of poverty and the condition of poverty is linked to questions of scarcity and distribution of resources and power.
The World Bank's "Voices of the Poor," [7] based on research with over 20,000 poor people in 23 countries, identifies a range of factors which poor people identify as part of poverty. These include
  • precarious livelihoods
  • excluded locations
  • physical limitations
  • gender relationships
  • problems in social relationships
  • lack of security
  • abuse by those in power
  • disempowering institutions
  • limited capabilities, and
  • weak community organizations.
Most important are those necessary for material well-being, especially food. Others of these issues relate to social rather than material issues. However it should be noted that this text has come in for scathing criticism that argues that it recreates old, highly pejorative and sometimes racialized colonial stereotypes and projects them on to poor people.[8]

Poverty may be defined by a government or organization for legal purposes, see Poverty threshold.

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. A more neutral term is developing nations. Although the most severe poverty is in the developing world, there is evidence of poverty in every region. In developed countries examples include homeless people and ghettos.

Poverty is also a type of religious promise, a state that may be taken on voluntarily in keeping with practices of piety. In Christianity it is one of the evangelical counsels intended to aid the imitation of the example of Christ.

Measuring poverty

Main article: Measuring poverty
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Map of world poverty by country, showing percentage of population living on less than 1 dollar per day. Unfortunately, information is missing for some countries.
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World map showing Life expectancy.
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World map showing the Human Development Index.
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World map showing the Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality.
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The percentage of the world's population living on less than $1 per day has halved in twenty years. However, most of this improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. The graph shows the 1981-2001 period.
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Life expectancy has been increasing and converging for most of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has recently seen a decline, partly related to the AIDS epidemic. The graph shows the 1950-2005 period.
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A homeless Frenchman in Paris.

When measured, poverty is the absolute or relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. An example of an absolute measurement would be the percentage of the population eating less food than is required to sustain the human body (approximately 2000-2500 calories per day for an adult male).

The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$ (PPP) 1 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $2 a day. It has been estimated that in 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day. The proportion of the developing world's population living in extreme economic poverty has fallen from 28 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2001. Much of the improvement has occurred in East and South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa GDP/capita shrank with 14 percent and extreme poverty increased from 41 percent in 1981 to 46 percent in 2001. Other regions have seen little or no change. In the early 1990s the transition economies of Europe and Central Asia experienced a sharp drop in income. Poverty rates rose to 6 percent at the end of the decade before beginning to recede. [9] There are various criticisms of these measurements.[10]

Other indicators are also improving. Life expectancy has greatly increased in the developing world since WWII and is starting to close the gap to the developed world where the improvement has been smaller. Even in Sub-Saharan Africa, the least developed region, life expectancy increased from 30 years before World War II to a peak of about 50 years before the HIV pandemic and other diseases started to force it down to the current level of 47 years. Child mortality has decreased in every developing region of the world[11]. The proportion of the world's population living in countries where per-capita food supplies are less than 2,200 calories (9,200 kilojoules) per day decreased from 56% in the mid-1960s to below 10% by the 1990s. Between 1950 and 1999, global literacy increased from 52% to 81% of the world. Women made up much of the gap: Female literacy as a percentage of male literacy has increased from 59% in 1970 to 80% in 2000. The percentage of children not in the labor force has also risen to over 90% in 2000 from 76% in 1960. There are similar trends for electric power, cars, radios, and telephones per capita, as well as the proportion of the population with access to clean water.[12]

Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context. In this case, the number of people counted as poor could increase while their income rise. A relative measurement would be to compare the total wealth of the poorest one-third of the population with the total wealth of richest 1% of the population. There are several different income inequality metrics. One example is the Gini coefficient.

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 instance, according to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, 46% of "those" in "poverty" in the U.S. own their own home (with the average poor person's home having three bedrooms, with one and a half baths, and a garage). Home ownership in this context does not necessarily mean someone has paid for the house; it merely means that they have been given the credit to make monthly payments on it.[13] Furthermore, the measurements are usually based on a person's yearly income and frequently take no account of total wealth, or net worth. The main poverty line used in the OECD and the European Union is based on "economic distance", a level of income set at 50% of the median household income. The US poverty line is more arbitrary. It was created in 1963-64 and was based on the dollar costs of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "economy food plan" multiplied by a factor of three. The multiplier was based on research showing that food costs in low-income households then accounted for about one-third of the total money income. This one-time calculation has since been annually updated for inflation in food costs.[14]

Currently, 1% of the world's population get 80% of the world's income. Income inequality for the world as a whole is decreasing. A 2002 study by Xavier Sala-i-Martin finds that this is driven mainly, but not fully, by the extraordinary growth rate of the incomes of the 1.2 billion Chinese citizens. However, unless Africa achieves economic growth, then China, India, the OECD and the rest of middle-income and rich countries will diverge away from it, and global inequality will rise. Thus, the economic growth of the African continent should be the priority of anyone concerned with increasing global income inequality.[15][16]

Even if poverty may be lessening for the world as a whole, it continues to be an enormous problem:
  • One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes. That's 270 million people since 1990, the majority women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US.[17]
  • Every year nearly 11 million children die before their fifth birthday.
  • In 2001, 1.1 billion people had consumption levels below $1 a day and 2.7 billion lived on less than $2 a day
  • 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.
  • An estimated 218 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labor worldwide, excluding child domestic labor.[18]

Causes of poverty

Many different factors have been cited to explain why poverty occurs. However, no single explanation has gained universal acceptance. Some possible factors include:
  • Natural factors such as the climate or environment[19]
  • The payment system which compels people to pay money in exchange for what they need. Those who don't have money cannot get what they need.
  • Not enough jobs. For those willing to work, the availability of jobs is central for existence. Work is the primary if not exclusive means of income, it occupies a great portion of time and is a source of dignity and achievement.
  • Human factors such as war and crime.[20][21]
  • On the other hand, research on the resource curse has found that countries with an abundance of natural resources creating quick wealth from exports tend to have less long-term prosperity than countries with less of these natural resources.
  • Inadequate nutrition in childhood in poor nations may lead to physical and mental stunting that may lead to economic problems. (Hence, it is both a cause and an effect). For example, lack of both iodine and iron has been implicated in impaired brain development, and this can affect enormous numbers of people: it is estimated that 2 billion people (one-third of the total global population) are affected by iodine deficiency, including 285 million 6- to 12-year-old children. In developing countries, it is estimated that 40% of children aged 4 and under suffer from anaemia because of insufficient iron in their diets. See also Health and intelligence.[22]
  • Disease, specifically diseases of poverty: AIDS,[23] malaria[24], and tuberculosis and others overwhelmingly afflict developing nations, which perpetuate poverty by diverting individual, community, and national health and economic resources from investment and productivity.[25] Further, many tropical nations are affected by parasites like malaria, schistosomiasis, and trypanosomiasis that are not present in temperate climates. The Tsetse fly makes it very difficult to use many animals in agriculture in afflicted regions.
  • Lacking rule of law.[26]
  • Lacking democracy.[27]
  • Lacking infrastructure.[28].
  • Lacking health care.[29]
  • Lacking equitably available education.[30]
  • Government corruption.[31][32]
  • Overpopulation and lack of access to birth control methods.[33][34] Note that population growth slows or even become negative as poverty is reduced due to the demographic transition.[35]
  • Tax havens which tax their own citizens and companies but not those from other nations and refuse to disclose information necessary for foreign taxation. This enables large scale political corruption, tax evasion, and organized crime in the foreign nations.[36]
  • Historical factors, for example imperialism and colonialism[37][38][39]
  • Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Monarchy, Fascism and Totalitarianism have all been named as causes by scholars writing from different perspectives. For example, poorly functioning property rights is seen by some as a cause of poverty[40], while communists see the institution of property rights itself as a cause of poverty.[41]
  • Lacking free trade. In particular, the very high subsidies to and protective tariffs for agriculture in the developed world. For example, almost half of the budget of the European Union goes to agricultural subsidies, mainly to large farmers and agribusinesses, which form a powerful lobby.[42] Japan gave 47 billion dollars in 2005 in subsidies to its agricultural sector,[43] nearly four times the amount it gave in total foreign aid.[44] The US gives 3.9 billion dollars each year in subsidies to its cotton sector, including 25,000 growers, three times more in subsidies than the entire USAID budget for Africa’s 500 million people.[45] This drains the taxed money and increases the prices for the consumers in developed world; decreases competition and efficiency; prevents exports by more competitive agricultural and other sectors in the developed world due to retaliatory trade barriers; and undermines the very type of industry in which the developing countries do have comparative advantages.[46]
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A homeless woman with her dog in a street of Rome

Effects of poverty

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A starving female child during the Nigerian-Biafran war of the late 1960s. The abdomen is paradoxically swollen due to Kwashiorkor or severe protein malnutrition.
Some effects of poverty may also be causes, as listed above, thus creating a "poverty cycle" and complicating the subject further: PK Freeman, M Keen, M Mani - 2003
55. ^ Social Protection and Risk Management at worldbank.org
56. ^ Rising food prices curb aid to global poor
57. ^ Study: 744,000 homeless in United States
58. ^ Health warning over Russian youth
59. ^ [6]Can aid bring an end to poverty
60. ^ [7] China becomes Africa's suitor
61. ^ PovertyNet worldbank.org
62. ^ Poverty, Growth, and Inequality worldbank.org
63. ^ The Doing Business database A member of the World Bank Group
64. ^ WORLD BANK HAS GOOD NEWS ABOUT FUTURE By ANDREW CASSEL The Philadelphia Inquirer. Dec. 30, 2006
65. ^ [8]
66. ^ UN Millennium Project
67. ^ Haiti's rice farmers and poultry growers have suffered greatly since trade barriers were lowered in 1994. By Jane Regan
68. ^ Tied Aid Strangling Nations, Says U.N. by Thalif Deen
69. ^ US and Foreign Aid, GlobalIssues.org
70. ^ MYTH: More Foreign Aid Will End Global Poverty
71. ^ MYTH: More Foreign Aid Will End Global Poverty
72. ^ Does Foreign Aid Reduce Poverty? Empirical Evidence from Nongovernmental and Bilateral Aid
73. ^ borgenproject.org
74. ^ SIPRI Yearbook 2006
75. ^ Market approach recasts often-hungry Ethiopia as potential bread basket
76. ^ Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP)
77. ^ Jeffrey D. Sachs, The End of Poverty Time, March 6 2005. Retrieved August 7 2007.
78. ^ endpoverty2015.org - United Nations Millennium Campaign
79. ^ standagainstpoverty.org - United Nations Millennium Campaign

Further reading

  • "Educate a Woman, You Educate a Nation" - South Africa Aims to Improve its Education for Girls WNN - Women News Network. Aug. 28, 2007. Lys Anzia
  • Atkinson, Anthony B. Poverty in Europe 1998
  • Betson, David M., and Jennifer L. Warlickcccccc "Alternative Historical Trends in Poverty." American Economic Review 88:348-51. 1998. in JSTOR
  • Brady, David "Rethinking the Sociological Measurement of Poverty" Social Forces 81#3 2003, pp. 715-751 Online in Project Muse. Abstract: Reviews shortcomings of the official U.S. measure; examines several theoretical and methodological advances in poverty measurement. Argues that ideal measures of poverty should: (1) measure comparative historical variation effectively; (2) be relative rather than absolute; (3) conceptualize poverty as social exclusion; (4) assess the impact of taxes, transfers, and state benefits; and (5) integrate the depth of poverty and the inequality among the poor. Next, this article evaluates sociological studies published since 1990 for their consideration of these criteria. This article advocates for three alternative poverty indices: the interval measure, the ordinal measure, and the sum of ordinals measure. Finally, using the Luxembourg Income Study, it examines the empirical patterns with these three measures, across advanced capitalist democracies from 1967 to 1997. Estimates of these poverty indices are made available.
  • Buhmann, Brigitte, Lee Rainwater, Guenther Schmaus, and Timothy M. Smeeding. 1988. "Equivalence Scales, Well-Being, Inequality, and Poverty: Sensitivity Estimates Across Ten Countries Using the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Database." Review of Income and Wealth 34:115-42.
  • Cox, W. Michael, and Richard Alm. Myths of Rich and Poor 1999
  • Danziger, Sheldon H., and Daniel H. Weinberg. "The Historical Record: Trends in Family Income, Inequality, and Poverty." Pp. 18-50 in Confronting Poverty: Prescriptions for Change, edited by Sheldon H. Danziger, Gary D. Sandefur, and Daniel. H. Weinberg. Russell Sage Foundation. 1994.
  • Firebaugh, Glenn. "Empirics of World Income Inequality." American Journal of Sociology (2000) 104:1597-1630. in JSTOR
  • Gans, Herbert, J., "The Uses of Poverty: The Poor Pay All", Social Policy, July/August 1971: pp. 20-24
  • George, Abraham, Wharton Business School Publications - Why the Fight Against Poverty is Failing: A Contrarian View
  • Gordon, David M. Theories of Poverty and Underemployment: Orthodox, Radical, and Dual Labor Market Perspectives. 1972.
  • Haveman, Robert H. Poverty Policy and Poverty Research. University of Wisconsin Press 1987.
  • John Iceland; Poverty in America: A Handbook University of California Press, 2003
  • Alice O'Connor; "Poverty Research and Policy for the Post-Welfare Era" Annual Review of Sociology, 2000
  • Osberg, Lars, and Kuan Xu. "International Comparisons of Poverty Intensity: Index Decomposition and Bootstrap Inference." The Journal of Human Resources 2000. 35:51-81.
  • Paugam, Serge. "Poverty and Social Exclusion: A Sociological View." Pp. 41-62 in ;;The Future of European Welfare'', edited by Martin Rhodes and Yves Meny 1998.
  • Amartya Sen; Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation Oxford University Press, 1982
  • Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom (1999)
  • Smeeding, Timothy M., Michael O'Higgins, and Lee Rainwater. Poverty, Inequality and Income Distribution in Comparative Perspective. Urban Institute Press 1990.
  • Triest, Robert K. "Has Poverty Gotten Worse?" Journal of Economic Perspectives 1998. 12:97-114.

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Food is any substance, usually composed primarily of carbohydrates, fats, water and/or proteins, that can be eaten or drunk by an animal or human being for nutrition or pleasure.
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Drinking water is water that is intended to be ingested by humans. Water of sufficient quality to serve as drinking water is termed potable water whether it is used as such or not.
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Shelter refers to a typically basic structure or building that covers or provides protection, including the following:
Protection from the weather
  • House
  • Mountain shelter or hut
  • Shack

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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.
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Social status is the honor or prestige attached to one's position in society (one's social position). The stratification system, which is the system of distributing rewards to the members of society, determines social status.
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Political power (imperium in Latin) is a type of power held by a person or group in a society. There are many ways to hold such power. Officially, political power is held by the holders of sovereignty.
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Income disparity or wage gap is a term used to describe inequities in average pay or salary between socio-economic groups within society, or the inequities in pay between individuals who produce the same work.
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The poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living. In practice, like the definition of poverty, the official or common understanding of the poverty line is significantly higher in developed
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developing country has a relatively low standard of living, an undeveloped industrial base, and a moderate to low Human Development Index (HDI) score. In developing countries, there is low per capita income, widespread poverty, and low capital formation.
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Homelessness is the condition and societal category of people who lack fixed housing, usually because they cannot afford a regular, safe, and adequate shelter. The term "homelessness" may also include people whose primary nighttime residence is in a homeless shelter, in an
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The three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection in Christianity are chastity, poverty (or perfect charity), and obedience (see e.g.
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Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[2] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, and is also an important figure in several other religions.
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Although the most severe poverty is in the developing world, there is evidence of poverty in every region. In developed countries, this condition results in wandering homeless people and poor suburbs and ghettos.
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The poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living. In practice, like the definition of poverty, the official or common understanding of the poverty line is significantly higher in developed
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The poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living. In practice, like the definition of poverty, the official or common understanding of the poverty line is significantly higher in developed
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developing country has a relatively low standard of living, an undeveloped industrial base, and a moderate to low Human Development Index (HDI) score. In developing countries, there is low per capita income, widespread poverty, and low capital formation.
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Upper Paleolithic 33 At age 15: 39 (to age 54)[3][4]
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