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Mainstream, Vol. XLVII, No 27, June 20, 2009

Poverty Syndrome: Various Facets

Monday 22 June 2009, by Vinod Anand


The literature review shows that poverty definitions currently used by various countries (especially developing) for administering their poverty programmes are inadequate, because very little research has been done in this area.

In fact, it is not easy to have one uniform definition of poverty because there are a number of specific issues that are normally linked with poverty. These are:

• the historical definitions of poverty;

• the use of index numbers in the measurement of poverty;

• family size and composition adjustments on measures of poverty;

• geographical variations in public service provision by type of service;

• regional income differences;

• wealth and assets and consumption as measures of poverty;

• poverty standards and the consumption of leisure;

• determinants of the turn-over rates of poor families;

• social and economic proxies for poverty;

• social indicators of poverty; and

• state administrative definitions of poverty.


It is a known fact that the extent of poverty is both severe and staggering all over the world. In this context, many studies report that

• there exists an overlap between poverty and inequality, and that they are closely related;

• incidence of poverty correlates with low levels of health, education, and nutrition, inadequate shelter and other unsatisfactory social conditions;

• poverty in most of the developing countries, despite being urbanised, still remains an overwhelmingly rural phenomenon;

• poverty tends to be concentrated in the areas with little or no access to health, education and infrastructural services like transport and communications;

• specific characteristics of the poor are limited to only to bi-variate correlations of the poor, and not to joint interrelationships with other characteristics of poverty.

Besides, poverty has many dimensions too. These are briefly mentioned below:

• larger household size is associated with greater incidence of poverty as measured in terms of household consumption or income per person;

• child-adult ratios are larger in poor households;

• higher mortality, especially of children, among he poor households stimulates excess replacement births;

• there exist a strong correlation between high fertility and poverty;

• there is widespread feminisation of poverty (especially in male-dominated societies) in the sense that young females are more exposed to poverty-induced nutritional and health risks;

• poor households depend heavily on unskilled labour income;

• poor households often over-exploit their immediate physical environment and the subsequent degradation intensifies poverty;

• poor households increasingly lose access in private and common resources; and

• poverty in urban areas is often associated with pollution due to the concentration of people, industry, and traffic.

• poverty gets normally concealed because of the marginalisation of the poor by the so-called rich people.

All these contentions constitute what we term as the poverty syndrome, especially in developing countries.

These contentions can be verified with the help of area-specific and people-specific studies through assistance of statistical analysis. I would like my readers who are interested in these issues to go ahead with such surveys, find out the results, and then either strengthen or weaken these hypotheses, and finally link their outcomes with the mainstream research in this area.

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