Poverty, Definition(s) of

  • A (36)
  • B (19)
  • C (58)
  • D (26)
  • E (34)
  • F (43)
  • G (20)
  • H (19)
  • I (27)
  • J (11)
  • K (1)
  • L (16)
  • M (27)
  • N (18)
  • O (18)
  • P (33)
  • Q (5)
  • R (30)
  • S (59)
  • T (16)
  • U (4)
  • V (7)
  • W (39)

"While poverty generally refers to material deprivation, it is a multifaceted experience for those who are struggling to get by. It can certainly involve economic hardship, such as difficulty in paying food bills or living in housing in severe disrepair. For some, poverty means lacking some of the basic consumer items that their neighbors have, such as telephones and cars. The term poverty can be used to describe a lack of other types of goods, such as education or human rights. The focus here, however, is more narrowly on the economic dimensions of poverty.

There are several reasons why poverty is considered a critical social issue. First, the hardship that often accompanies poverty can have adverse effects on individuals’ physical and psychological well-being. A number of studies have shown that children raised in poor families are worse off in terms of their cognitive development, school achievement, and emotional well-being. Poor individuals are also more likely to have health problems and shorter life expectancies. Many people would also agree that it is morally troubling to have poverty amidst relative affluence.

Second, poverty has broader economic consequences. Economies thrive in societies with vibrant working and middle classes. For example, much of the strong economic growth in the United States in the twentieth century was fueled by the expansion of consumer markets. As the demand for new products increased, so did technological innovation, productivity, and wages and benefits. Thus, declining levels of poverty contribute to a healthy economy by increasing the number of people who can produce and purchase goods and services; that increase, in turn, stimulates economic growth and raises average standards of living.

Third, high levels of poverty can have serious social and political consequences. Poor people often feel alienated from mainstream society. Poverty can provoke social disorder and crime and reduce public confidence in democratic institutions if people do not feel their needs are being addressed by the prevailing system. The unequal distribution of resources can contribute to a fragmentation of society, both nationally and globally." (Iceland, 2007)

Glossary Source: 

Iceland, J. (2007). Poverty. In  G. Ritzer (Ed.), Blackwell encyclopedia of sociology. Blackwell Publishing. Blackwell Reference Online. Retrieved June 13, 2007, from http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/uid=572/tocnode?id=g9781405124331_chunk_g978140512433122_ss1-86.