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What is Poverty?

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Most of us probably think that we have a good idea of what the word ‘poverty’ means. If we really think about it though we may find that our understanding isn’t as clear as we might have first thought. What actually defines people as living in poverty? Is it not having enough to eat? Do we mean people that can’t afford health insurance? Is somebody who doesn’t have their own motorized transport to be considered poor? What about people who have plenty to eat but don’t own their own home? Is lack of opportunity a form of poverty? The more we try to define poverty the harder it can be to decide what it actually refers to.

What is Poverty?

The truth about poverty is that it is hard define and depending on who you talk to you might get a different definition. This is problematic because it means that two people might be having a conversation about poverty yet talking about completely different things. Governments around the world will usually have goals for tackling poverty but these countries will define it in different ways. In some places around the world if you have food in your belly and a roof over your head then you would not be considered to be in poverty. In some other countries though there will be a far higher expectations and a much higher poverty line.

The Reasons Why Defining Poverty is Important

Defining the word ‘poverty’ is a political issue that can have a huge influence on government policy. Depending on how it is defined it will determine if people are to be considered disadvantaged or not. For example, if the government decides that not having a computer in the home puts you below the poverty line then this will classify a lot more people as disadvantaged than if this wasn’t the case. Some countries will impose a poverty line that is very high and citizens would have to be practically dying of hunger before they would be viewed as in need of assistance.

An important aspect of poverty is the idea of the ‘working poor’. These are people who are below the poverty line yet have full-time jobs. The existence of so many people who are in this position can put a lot of pressure on governments to introduce a minimum wage. There is a lot at stake when it comes to determining the poverty line and this is why there are a lot of pressure groups around to argue the definition of who is poor and who isn’t. Those who are against the minimum wage may argue quite forcibly that the poverty line is too high.

Defining poverty might seem to be an easy task but it is something that continues to cause much debate. There is unlikely to be any resolution to this soon and so poverty will remain subjective for most of us. There is no doubt that poverty exists but we do find it hard to agree on exactly what it is.

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Meet the Author

Anthony Carter currently resides in Fife, Scotland with his wife Lisa, and their three wonderful children. As a senior editor for various publications, if he's not reading and writing, you would find him photographing and traveling to some of the most far-flung locations around the world.

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