Abstract:The international development community has had poverty in focus for more than a decade. At summit meetings and other occasions, world leaders have stated and reconfirmed their agreement that poverty must be reduced and eventually eradicated. The political commitment is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for this to happen. Analysts, policy-makers and practitioners need appropriate concepts and dedicated measures to enable progress from rhetoric and general policy statements to action and results on the ground. In this issue of IPC’s journal Poverty in Focus we present ten articles intended to throw light on the question of how best to define and measure poverty. Robert Chambers outlines five clusters of meanings and reminds us of the importance of the analysis and views of poor people themselves and their many meanings. When they get to express their views, we get a case for changing language, concepts and measures in development. The key issue is whose reality counts – theirs or ours? Peter Townsend provides an historical perspective of the poverty concept and the setting of poverty lines. Three poverty concepts have evolved, based on ideas of subsistence, basic needs and relative deprivation. Since material needs are socially determined, we need a new international poverty line based on what is required in different countries to surmount material and social deprivation. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr describes the multidimensional poverty measures developed by UNDP’s Human Development Reports since 1990, especially the Human Poverty Index (HPI). It shows a large spread of human poverty among countries with similar levels of income poverty and thus, HPI is only weakly correlated with income poverty. Recent HPI trends are also presented and discussed.

Keywords:What is poverty, concepts, measures
Publication Date:
Type/Issue:Policy In Focus/9