Poverty has been studied by sociologists since the early nineteenth centuary.
Absolute and relative poverty are the two main concepts used in an attempt to explain, define and measure poverty throughout society.
Haralambos and holbourne
Absolute poverty can be defined as the inability to obtain the basic necessaties needed to maitain haelth and physical efficiency.
A leading figure in this concept is Seebohn Rowntree. He performed a study of poor families in York in 1899, with this he drew a poverty line.
He drew this line by calculating a weekly amount needed to aquire basic needs. These needs included food, shelter,clothing, fuel, light, household and personal items.
Rowntrees calculations were bases on the lowest possible cost for these items, and he research these costs with the help of experts and health professionals.
From this he was able to split poverty into two sub types. Primary- which is where a family did not meet the poverty line and could not afford all of the basic necessities.
Secondry is where a family could meet the need but for one reason or another where willing to forgo an essential item, such as meat for one week in order so they could have a change, for example going out for a drink.
Peter Tomsnend is a critic of this model. He believed that it was not possible to objectivley measure human needs.
He pointed out that all individuals, have different needs for reasons of health, environment or occupation.
For example the dietry requirements of an office worker would differ from that of a more active line of work such as building.
Townsend also noted that cultural and agricultural need also needed to be taken into account.
After further studies on poor families, again in York 1936 and 1950, Seebohn recognised the flaws in his previous calculations and proceeded to amend his poverty. He did this by addeing new items to the basic needs, such as travel costs, books and holidays.
The absolute concept of poverty is what the welfare state is based upon, it also has been suggested that this concept serves to minamise the amount of poverty existing in the UK and is more commonly associated with third world countries.
Peter Townsend came up with the concept of relative poverty, calling it relative deprivation. He went on to devise an index of poverty 1968-1969. The index included not only the basic necessaties of life, but also the ideas, needs and demands of a society, at a particular time, that the felt they were being deprived of.
This included the pleasures and comforts of life, such as a fridge, television, roasted joint and even a cooked breakfast.
But as Mack and Lansley pointed out from seperate research, the idea of actual deprivation of some of the items on Townsends list, could simply be a matter of individual choice. Results from the index list showed a vast difference in the amoubnt of poverty in the Uk, from that of Seebohns studies. Mack and Lansley revamped this list, including the same items, but asking the particapent whether they were deprived of a certain item or whether the chooses not to have it.
This new list saw a dramatic diference of poverty results in the UK than Townsends list. Townsend was however an extremly important influence on poverty being brought back to the political agenda.
According to poverty 121(www.cpag.org.uk), the public are often unaware, misinformed or sceptable about poverty in the UK.
It goes on to suggest that the goverment need a greater amount of support to tackle this issue, especially child poverty, which was pro,mised to be eradicated by 2020.
Their are 4 million living in low income households in the UK, according to the 2008 annual report by the Joseph Rowntree foundation(www.poverty.org.uk)
13 1/2 low income households in the UK, this is one fifth of the population(22%) which is a 1 1/2 million increase since a report done in 2004/2005
The mkjority of those living in poverty are most likley to be, disabled, elderly, children of single parents and ethnic minorities.
In fact two fifths of ethnic minority groups are in low income house holds, this is twice the amount of white people.
Prehaps more shockingly so, as low income house holds in the EU go, there are only four other countries out of the 27 EU countries that have a higher poverty rate than the UK.