Absolute poverty

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The Absolute measure of poverty is defined as: "A condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information." An easier definition to understand would be the lack of one or more basic needs over a period long enough that it endangers your life or can cause it harm. [1] The best data for assessing progress against poverty come from surveys of the living standards of nationally representative samples of households. [2] It depends not only on income, but also on access to services." by the World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen 1995. [3] Of the two main standards for measuring poverty used by the world bank (absolute and relative) the Absolute measure is more commonly applied to developing countries [4]. In developing countries a significant portion of the population lives at or below levels of basic needs making the relative measure less important.

In developed countries where the relative value is more applicable than absolute measurement, the poverty rate is generally rated at household income being at 60 percent of the median income of the nation. At this level of income, it is likely that the household can still survive so it is not as dire of a situation as is falling below the absolute level. The relative value more or less corresponds with the ability to fit in with the rest of civilization and not be socially excluded.

In David Gordon's paper for the United Nations, Indicators of Poverty and Hunger, he states several proposed indicators for poverty of young people (under age 24). One that he goes into great detail about it body mass index and how it relates to poverty levels. For example, if BMI is below 16 a person is severely underweight and may suffering severe deprivation of basic human needs and if BMI is below 18.5 a person is underweight and may be suffering deprivation of basic human needs. Other indicators he outlines are water deprivation, deprivation of sanitation facilities, health deprivation, shelter deprivation, education deprivation, and information deprivation. If a person exhibits the presence of any two of these deprivations they may be suffering deprivation of basic human needs, and are poor. [5]


  1. >"The Challenges of Absolute Poverty - Political Consequences." Poverty. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.poverties.org/absolute-poverty.html>.
  2. http://www.pnas.org/content/104/43/16757.long
  3. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ydiDavidGordon_poverty.pdf Gordon, David. University of Bristol, "UN.org." Accessed April 18, 2012. "
  4. http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERT/EXTP/0,,contentMDK:20242879~menuPK:435055~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:430367,00.html
  5. http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ydiDavidGordon_poverty.pdf
From Poverty to Power by Duncan Green. We Measure Relative Poverty in Rich Countries; Absolute Poverty in Poor Ones – What If We Combine Them? Web. 23 Apr. 2012. <http://www.oxfamblogs.org/fp2p/?p=6619>

"The Challenges of Absolute Poverty - Political Consequences." Poverty. Web. 24 Apr. 2012. <http://www.poverties.org/absolute-poverty.html>.

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