Sociology- Poverty & Health

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  • Created on: 11-06-12 18:16

Absolute Poverty

Maslow Hierarchy of needs (basic needs).

Absolute poverty- a person who lacks the basic minimum needs for a healthy survival.


  • Difficulty in identifying basic needs. 
  • Differing needs between people, etc, varying of diets between sexes, housing needs through the seasons.
  • Value judgements.
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Relative Poverty and Social Exclusion

Relative Poverty- People are poverty-stricken when they lack things that the majority society see as minimum necessities.

People who do not live in a accepted standard, compared to the rest of society.


  • Not an indicator of poverty; highlights social inequality.
  • Defined by peoples judgements.

Relative Poverty and Social Exclusion closely link together.

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Cultural and Structural causes of Poverty

Social Exclusion- Involves people being marginalized or excluded from society. Resulting in them being unable to participate in mainstream society.

Marginalized from society.

Cultural- Poverty is learnt. This is a set of beliefs and values which exist amongst the poor, preventing them from escaping poverty.

Structural- Poverty is caused by society. The welfare state supports and promotes people to live in Poverty, instead of standing on their own two feet.

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Poverty line

Government agreed dividing point for the poor.

60% after household spends; whether you can still participate in the acceptable way of living in society. If you could not you were regarded as poor.

Who are the Poor?

  • Unemployed
  • Low paid
  • Pensioners
  • Lone parents
  • Children
  • Disabled
  • Minority ethnic groups
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Key Researchers

  • Oscar Lewis (1961) Culture of Poverty
  • Charles Murray (1989) New Right. The Underclass
  • David Marsland (1989) New Right. Culture of dependency
  • Peter Townsend (1979) Measured Relative Poverty (Deprivation index)
  • Joseph Rowntree (2000) Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain (Measurement of Poverty)
  • Mac and Lansley (1983 & 1990) Breadline Britain (Consensual measurement of Poverty)
  • Coates and Silburn (1970) Cycle of deprivation
  • Frank Field (1989) Social democratic. Trapped in Poverty
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Inverse Care Law

Tudor-Hart first identified the inverse care law in 1971

The inverse care law suggests that those in the greatest need of support from the welfare state, get the least, Whilst those who need is least get the most resources.

People who have the least get the least from the welfare state.

Westergaard and Resler (1976) Argue againist.

The welfare state is concerned with distribution within rather than bewteen Social classes.

Resources distributed fairly.

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Universal benefits and means testing

Universal benefits-

Available to everyone, regardless of income

  • State pension
  • Child benefit
  • Free Health Care and Education

Means Tested benefits-

People have to pass a test regarding income and savings; only if these are low enough will they receive benefits.

Only eligible for benefits if income is found to be low enough.

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Policies introduced to help people in Poverty

The Labour government in 1997 implemented these policies-

  • Introduction of first National minimum wage
  • Introduction of tax credits
  • Neighbourhood renewal; regenerate deprived communities
  • Increase in childcare and nursery education
  • Establishment of New Deals to help the young, disabled, long-term unemployed and lone parents get back into work.
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Reports and findings

  • The Acheson Report (1998) Factors causing ill health are related to social inequality.
  • The Black Report (1980) Social class inequalities in health, first clearly revealed.
  • The Health Divide (1987) British Government report which supported the Black Report.
  • The Marmot Review (2010) Health inequalities. 
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Welfare State

The welfare state was set up to address the 5 giant evils' which were addressed in the Beveridge Report (1942)-

  • WANT
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Two views of underclass

Social democratic view-

The underclass consists of disadvantaged groups at the bottom of the social class hierarchy; whose poverty means they are excluded from taking part in society.

Lack of opportunities which exclude them from society; they fall into a trap reliant on benefits.

New Right view-

The attitudes and behaviours of the poor are responsible for their poverty.

They see the poor as undeserving and lazy.

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