Sociology - Wealth, Poverty and Work - Definitions, Measurements and Distributions of Poverty.


Definitions, Measures, Distribution of Poverty:

Definitions of poverty:

Absolute poverty - the minimum line of necessities for the sustainment of human life.

Definitions include Gordon and Townsend et al’s seven basic needs; Clean water, Sanitation, Shelter, Education, Information, Food, and Health. Essentially if you do not have these seven basic needs then you are poor. An example of how to measure absolute poverty would be the proportion of the population eating less than is needed to sustain life (2000-2500 calories a day) measured by the food survey.


  • Common sense view.

  • Easier to measure.

  • Objective – treats everyone the same as we are all human .

  • Standardised Transferable to all societies.

  • Actually measures poverty.


  • Doesn’t take into account societal customs.

  • Too simplistic and inflexible.

  • Difficult to draw a basic biological needs line.

  • Society has changed so has poverty.

  • The method is objective but poverty is subjective.

Relative poverty - The condition in which people lack the minimum amount of income needed in order to maintain the average standard of living.

In more affluent societies biological needs aren’t the only line of poverty the line in Townsend’s view is whether members of that society can participate fully in the social and cultural societies in which they live. It is relative poverty as the definitions are dependant on what is normal and acceptable in a given society. One relative measurement would be to compare the total wealth of the poorest one-third of the population with the total wealth of the richest 1% of the population.


  • Flexible to the changing societies.

  • Realistic – reflects the nature of budget requirements.

  • Social differentiation – even if we are human we are all different.

  • Holistic – looks at range of different factors.


  • It’s not uncovering poverty but inequality is society.

  • People may be objectively poor but not feel poor.

  • Who decides poverty?

  • Subjective.

  • Consensual definitions – people may lack the knowledge and experience of poverty.

Measuring Poverty:

  • Budget standards - This is a variation of the Absolute poverty model, which involves


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