Just Sociology

Understanding Poverty: Origins Explanations and Relevance Today

The concept of poverty has been examined by scholars for centuries. The definition of poverty has been a contentious one, with various models and methods used to measure it.

This academic article seeks to explore the origins of the concept of poverty and the different explanations and criticisms of the concept. 1.

Definition of Poverty:

1.1 Origins of the Concept:

The concept of poverty gained widespread attention in the early 20th century, with Seebohm Rowntree’s study of poverty in York. Rowntree’s pioneering work sought to determine the “minimum amount of money, which is necessary for the physical maintenance of individuals and families.” The study revealed that a significant proportion of the population lived in poverty, leading to concerns of social injustice.

Since then, various models and methods have been employed to measure poverty, including the absolute and relative poverty models. The absolute poverty model describes poverty as a lack of material subsistence, where individuals are unable to obtain the necessities required for survival, such as food, water, and shelter.

The relative poverty model, on the other hand, describes poverty as a lack of social inclusion, where individuals experience marginalization due to their income, gender, race, or other factors. 1.2 Absolute and Relative Poverty:

The absolute and relative poverty models have been criticized for their limitations in capturing the multidimensionality of poverty.

The absolute poverty model ignores the social and cultural dimensions of poverty and fails to account for the different needs and aspirations of individuals in different societies. Moreover, the poverty line is determined by political and economic contexts and is therefore subject to change.

The relative poverty model, while acknowledging the multidimensionality of poverty and the social and cultural factors that contribute to it, has been criticized for its vagueness and inability to capture the experiences of individuals living in poverty. The model fails to address the structural causes of poverty, such as social inequality, discrimination, and marginalization, and instead focuses on individual experiences.

2. Explanations of Poverty:

2.1 Individual and Social-Structural Explanations:

The explanations of poverty can be broadly categorized into two groups: individual and social-structural explanations.

Individual explanations blame the victim for their circumstances and assert that poverty is the result of individual shortcomings or failures, such as a lack of personal responsibility, education, or skills. Social-structural explanations, on the other hand, blame the system for poverty and assert that poverty is the result of social inequality, discrimination, or marginalization.

The blame the victim approach has been criticized for its inability to account for the structural causes of poverty and for its tendency to blame individuals for social and economic conditions that they have little control over. The blame the system approach, on the other hand, acknowledges the structural causes of poverty and calls for social policies that address social inequality, marginalization, and discrimination.

2.2 Criticisms of the Concept of Poverty:

The definition of poverty has been criticized for its limited scope and inability to account for the different experiences and dimensions of poverty, such as social exclusion, access to citizenship rights, and cultural capital. Furthermore, the measure of poverty, whether absolute or relative, is subject to political and economic contexts and fails to capture the complexity of poverty.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the definition of poverty has been a contentious one, with various models and methods used to measure it. The absolute and relative poverty models have limitations in capturing the multidimensionality of poverty, which can only be understood through social-structural explanations that address the structural causes of poverty, such as social inequality, discrimination, and marginalization.

Despite criticisms of the concept of poverty, examining and understanding poverty are essential for policymakers to develop effective social policies and interventions to reduce poverty and social injustice.

3) Continuing Relevance of Poverty

3.1 Research on Poverty

Poverty remains a pressing issue in both the United Kingdom and the United States due to their socio-economic structures, with evident signs of the persistence of poverty. Empirical data suggests that poverty is associated with many negative outcomes, such as bad health, poorer educational outcomes, social exclusion, and crime.

The impact of poverty on children is particularly acute, with poverty being a major contributor to developmental delays, child abuse, and neglect. Various studies and empirical data have been instrumental in highlighting the nature and extent of poverty in different societies.

For instance, research conducted by Save the Children UK in 2018 highlighted that British families who fell below the poverty line routinely have to cut back on essential items such as heating, fruit and vegetables, and new shoes for their children. Similarly, research conducted in the United States by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality found that issues related to poverty were negatively impacting the life chances of marginalized communities, such as the poor, the elderly, and racial and ethnic minorities.

The researchers pointed out that poverty disproportionately affected these populations, and that this has been a long-standing issue in the United States. Despite the efforts of policymakers, the researchers found that progress towards reducing poverty had been slow and that poverty persisted, even in times of economic growth.

3.2 Signposting and Related Posts

To understand poverty and its persistence, researchers have used a range of theoretical approaches. Marxist theory, for instance, has been influential in highlighting how poverty is a consequence of the internal contradictions of capitalism, where the working-class is exploited by the capitalist class to maximize their profits.

Material deprivation is another useful concept in understanding poverty. This approach emphasizes the material and financial deprivations experienced by individuals and households, and how these result in a lack of access to basic necessities.

Relative deprivation, on the other hand, emphasizes the psychological and social costs of poverty, such as feelings of shame, low self-esteem, and social exclusion. This approach emphasizes the role of relative inequality and social comparison in shaping individuals’ experiences of poverty.

Left realism is another influential criminological theory that seeks to explain the persistence of poverty through a combination of structural and cultural factors. Left realists argue that poverty leads to crime as individuals living in poverty turn to criminal activities as a means to escape their deprivation.

Moreover, poverty remains a global development module, with researchers continuing to study poverty and its impact on different societies worldwide. The research focused on understanding how various factors cause and perpetuate poverty and reduce its occurrence.

A better understanding of poverty and its persistence can help inform policymakers’ decision-making, leading to the implementation of effective poverty alleviation policies and programs. In conclusion, poverty remains a major problem in the United Kingdom and the United States, with numerous empirical studies highlighting its nature, extent, causes, and effects.

Different theoretical approaches, such as Marxist theory, material deprivation, and relative deprivation, have been instrumental in understanding the persistence of poverty, as well as how it affects individuals and communities. Understanding poverty and its persistence is essential for developing effective poverty alleviation policies and programs, which can help tackle poverty’s intergenerational nature and reduce it in the long term.

Conclusion:

Poverty is a complex and multi-dimensional phenomenon that continues to impact individuals and communities around the world. Through this article, we have explored the origins of the concept of poverty and examined the different explanations and criticisms of the concept.

We have also explored the continuing relevance of poverty and discussed the research and theoretical approaches that have guided our understanding of this issue. It is essential to continue learning and discussing poverty, as this awareness can lead to the development of effective poverty alleviation policies and programs that can improve the lives of marginalized communities and promote social justice.

FAQs:

1. What is absolute poverty?

Absolute poverty is a lack of means to acquire the basic necessities of life, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter. 2.

What is relative poverty?

Relative poverty is a measure of poverty that compares people living within a particular society, and it is defined as having insufficient resources to participate fully in the societal needs and expectations.

3. How does poverty affect individuals and communities?

Poverty has numerous negative effects, including poor health, reduced educational attainment, social exclusion, and crime, which affects individuals economically and emotionally. 4.

Are there other factors that contribute to poverty? Yes, social inequality, discrimination, and marginalization contribute to poverty.

5. What can be done to alleviate poverty?

Effective poverty alleviation policies and programs can be implemented, which may include education, social-welfare programs, healthcare, and economic development strategies.

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