Poverty: Socio-Cultural Issues: Poverty and Its Dimensions, Identifying Poor

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Poverty and Its Dimensions

Poverty and Its Dimensions
  • A social problem and a challenge
  • Who is poor?
  • Dimensions: levels of income, consumption level, socio-economic-political indicators

Identifying Poor

Identifying Poor


  • Adam Smith in his book “Wealth of Nations” , … a person is rich or poor according to the degree in which he can afford to enjoy the necessaries, the conveniences and the amusements of life.
  • Indian Planning Commission defined poverty line on the basis of nutritional requirements of 2400 cal per person per day for rural areas and 2100 cal per person per day for urban areas.
  • According to The National Institute of Rural Development and Rural Development Statistics Data of NSS in 2004 the percentage of over 23.6 % or 250 million people in India.

What is Absolute Poverty?

  • Minimal requirements necessary to sustain a healthy existence.
  • establishing a fixed level called as poverty line below which poverty begins and above which it does not exist: poor and non-poor
  • It is calculated on the basis of basic human needs and the resources which are required to maintain health and physical efficiency
  • Also known as subsistence poverty
What is Absolute Poverty?
  • Drewnoski and Scott added education, leisure, recreation and security and termed these as basic cultural needs.
  • Level of Living Index- added to basic physical needs- intake of calories and protein, medical facilities, dwelling place, overcrowding, mortality, etc.


  • We measure it by pricing the basics of life and drawing a poverty line in terms of this price and then defining as poor who are or whose income falls below the line
  • Here the basics like nutrition are measured based on different criteria
  • Peter Townsend also criticized this saying needs keep changing and so do occupations and leisure with the change in society.
  • In the words of Peter Townsend, “any definition of poverty must be related to the needs and demands of a changing society.”
  • The concept of absolute poverty was criticized as it is based on the assumption that there are minimum basic needs for everyone. In every society has needs keep waiting with the change in society
  • doesn՚t answer who is more poor and who needs more help

Relative Poverty

  • In layman terms, we can say relative poverty is established in comparison to
  • The concept of relative property replaced the concept of absolute poverty because poverty measures in relative standards i.e.. standards which are related to particular time and place are more efficient.


Causes of poverty can be divided into five heads:

1. Individual incapacity

2. Economic factors

3. Social factors

4. Demographic factors and

5. Other factors

  • Individual incapacity or deficiencies or incapacity - this ideology is based on Individuality and considers poverty as a personal matter for example the negative qualities like laziness, lack of initiative, dullness, alcoholism, illiteracy, et cetera could be the causes of poverty
  • E. g. Protestant Ethics by Weber

Economic Causes

  • India not as developed, other countries more advanced
  • low per capita income
  • Unemployment - there are not enough employment opportunities
  • Capital deficiency of industries
  • Dependence on agriculture more than 65 % people depend on it
  • Inflationary pressure the value of money keeps coming down it affects the purchasing power of the people
  • Ineptness

Demographic Factors

  • Huge population - 35.7 % people below the age of 14 years and not able to earn
  • Big family sizes and degrading health, lack of medical treatment

Social Causes

  • Traditional wisdom, superstition, casteism, language and parochialism , religious and linguistic prejudices
  • illiteracy , culture of ignorance - in 2001 there were 38, crores illiterates in the country
  • Social exclusion
  • System of traditional and hereditary occupation of the caste does not encourage to take up jobs of their choice

Other Causes

  • Climate cannot be productive in very hot climate
  • Lack of political will, corruption and inefficient and ineffective political system

Measures by Govt

  • The Indian government had set up the Planning Commission in the year 1950 and started with Five-Year Plans.
  • Aimed at attaining self-reliance in agricultural production , removing unemployment
  • Wiping out poverty by increasing standard of living
  • Progressing in industries

Nationalization of Banks

  • Granting loans to the weaker section
  • Branch expansion in reaching people
  • 20 point programme with the theme of removing poverty, uplifting the weaker sections of the society and preventing economic exploitation
  • There are many other schemes like JRY, PMRY, MNREGA, Rural Housing Schemes, etc.

Conclusion and Suggestions

  • People՚s participation
  • Youth involvement in politics
  • General will to stand for the cause together
  • Family planning
  • Reduce Illiteracy
  • Reduce corruption
  • Capable civil servants


Q1. Which type of Poverty refers to a lack of basic resources needed to maintain the physical survival?

(1) Absolute Poverty

(2) Cultural Poverty

(3) Subjective Poverty

(4) Enforced Poverty

Ans. 1

Q. 2. ′ Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved, in the societies to which they belong. Their resources are so seriously below those commanded by average individual or family that they are, in effect, excluded from the ordinary living patterns, customs and activities. (Townsend, 1979, Haralambos and Hoborn: Sociology, p. 297) .

From the above paragraph in which of the following way ‘poverty’ is defined?

(A) Poverty is absolute term.

(B) Poverty as ‘Relative deprivation’ .

(C) Poverty as ‘absence of resources’ .

(D) Poverty as ‘exclusion of activities’ .

Ans. B