SCLY1 - Poverty, Wealth and Welfare complete notes

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1. Different definitions and ways of measuring poverty, wealth
and income.
Poverty: absolute and relative, material and multiple deprivation, social
exclusion, subjective poverty, environmental poverty. Measurement of poverty:
of relative poverty illustrated by Townsend or Mack and Lansley.
Defining Poverty.
Absolute poverty - also known as subsistence poverty as it is based on
judgements of what minimum resources are needed for subsistence. It is
normally measured by pricing the basic necessities of life, drawing a poverty line
in terms of this price, and defining those whose incomes falls below this as poor.
According to research by the United Nations over 800 million people live in a state
of absolute poverty, mostly in less developed countries.
We can use it compare and contrast other societies with regard to poverty elsewhere in the world,
against a common denominator. Absolute poverty is easier to measure, and therefore easier to
research. Absolute poverty is seen as objective in that it measures in terms of level of income and
calorific requirements of diet . Sen (1982) argues that looking at the world as a whole - there is still
a need for an absolute concept of poverty linked to malnutrition . However, the search for an
objective measure of poverty is impossible, no absolute criteria are available. Rowntree too had
found that when drawing-up a poverty line based on health that it was impossible to exclude
society's norms and customs. When the concept of absolute poverty is widened to include cultural
needs it becomes even more difficult to establish an agreed poverty line. A study by Oldfield and
Yu (1993) undertaken for the Child Poverty Action Group concluded that even with a basic, low-cost
budget income support, scales were inadequate. That is that income support does not lift those at
risk out of poverty, but simply sustains those who are poor in poverty. Absolute poverty also
Ignores social needs (friendship, hobbies). It is a measure of destitution, not poverty (according to
this definition, you'd have to be in danger of death to be poor!) It hides the extent of relative
poverty ­ the numbers of people in absolute poverty are very low in the UK ­ but thousands of
people experience relative poverty. If sociologists use the absolute definition, then the
government may think that poverty is declining and nothing needs to be done.
Relative Poverty - A state in which people lack the resources to enjoy the living
conditions, amenities and rituals that the mass of society take for granted, such as
income, housing, education, health etc. This definition assumes that definitions of
poverty are not fixed ­ they reflect constantly changing living standards and
changing cultural expectations. For example, poverty may even differ between
different groups within the same society because different regions, age-groups
etc. may have different social needs, e.g. the elderly may need access to a
different set of resources to those needed by Asian women.

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Allows us to think how poverty is socially constructed and may change at different times and
places. Allows us to extend the debate, as this measure realises that poverty is a comparison with
what the rest of society possesses. Impossible to apply equally across the world, material values
differ between countries. Relative poverty will always exist as long as it is compared to inequality
of material wealth. Relative poverty tends to overplay the problem. It is a measure of inequality,
not poverty. E.g..…read more

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Social exclusion ­ New Labour - This refers to the process by which certain groups
are marginalised and disadvantaged by the mainstream institutions of society. It
not only stresses material deprivation bit also inequalities of power that prevents
those socially excluded from influencing decision-makers.…read more

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Wealth: marketable and non-marketable wealth, significance of home
ownership and share ownership, pensions, inheritance. Issues and problems in
measuring wealth.
Defining Wealth.
Sociologists find it very difficult to define new concepts of wealth, however they do
understand that wealth includes possessions, assets, and savings.…read more

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The idea was that increased revenue
would allow the government to spend money on public services and thereby
increase living standards for all tax payers.
Direct Taxation - These are taxes which are imposed directly on the individual
paying them. E.g. income tax and inheritance tax.
Indirect Taxation - These taxes are executed in an indirect way rather than being
charged directly on income / estate. E.g. VAT.
Progressive Tax - As income rises the proportion of income paid in taxation rises.…read more

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Murray ­ Stigmatization - Income - Women who have children outside marriage
are singled out as particularly worthy of stigma, the erosion of which since the
`sexual revolution of the 1960s', Murray suggests, has contributed to the increase
in their numbers.
Kabeer ­ Social Status ­ Income ­ Women have fewer possibilities to translate
work into income.…read more

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Because these jobs offer
little in the way of promotion prospects or training, ethnic minority workers have
tended to remain in a disadvantages position in the labour market. For this
reason, ethnic minorities form an underclass in Britain. Which is maintained
because of the predominance of ethnic minority groups in the secondary labour
Alcock ­ Social Exclusion - Poverty ­ Often as much of a problem for minority
ethnic groups as material poverty.…read more

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Divorced or widowed women have the lowest levels
of material resources, especially those who may have been in involved in part
time or low paid work.…read more

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The existence and persistence of poverty in contemporary
Study of official statistics and sociological research findings on poverty,
including some international comparisons.
No overall figures are given, can't look at changes in individuals' lives, The sample could change
each year ­ this may affect the amount of poverty found.…read more

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Spencer also
believed that poverty was functional necessity for society, and provided and
incentive for hard work and thrift.
Lewis ­ Culture of Poverty ­ New Right - Examples of this include the tendency
toward instant rather than deferred gratification, due to the uncertainty of
working class life. Eventually a culture of poverty develops, passed from one
generation to the next.…read more


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