Defining Poverty

Feb 1, 2008 | Posted by Scott Hughes, author of Achieve Your Dreams | Post a Comment

I think those of us who work for poverty alleviation would benefit from trying harder to define poverty.

Common misconceptions about poverty hinder the social movement to eradicate poverty. I think we can often trace the misconceptions to a misunderstanding of what the word poverty means in the socioeconomic context.

I think finding a accurate and complete definition of poverty requires a group of people. So I hope you help us try to define poverty in the World Hunger and Poverty Forums.

Let me try to offer my own definition of poverty. I define poverty as a lack of access to a basic standard of living which includes basic “needs” such as food, clothes, shelter and healthcare.

Additionally, I want to point out that a person needs to make enough money to pay not only their current living expenses, but also past and future expenses. On average, people probably can only work about half their life–generally from their mid-20s to retirement. So we cannot measure a person’s yearly salary against the cost-of-living for a year to measure poverty. In a year, a person needs to earn about double a year’s worth of living expenses.

Also, we need to make subtractions from a person’s salary to come up with a “net salary” which we can use to judge their true economic standing. We need to subtract unemployment insurance, education costs, transportation, and any other job-related expenses. In other words, a person must accept certain costs in order to do a job and earn an income, so we must subtract the costs from the income to find the person’s net salary. And we must use the net salary to find out if the person can truly afford the cost-of-living.

The United States government admits that nearly 40 million of its citizens live in poverty. But I think we would find an even higher number if we used a more accurate measure of poverty based on a more accurate definition of poverty.

How can we fix a problem without understanding it correctly?

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About Scott Hughes

I am the author of Achieve Your Dreams. I also published the book Holding Fire: Short Stories of Self-Destruction. I have two kids who I love so much. I just want to be a good role model for them. I hope what I do here makes them proud of me. Please let me know you think about the post by leaving a comment below!

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Children suffering from Poverty