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  1. Balance of Payment I | Week 1
    4 Topics
  2. Balance of Payment II | Week 2
    4 Topics
  3. Economic Growth & Development | Week 3
    1 Topic
    1 Quiz
  4. Economic Development Planning | Week 4
    2 Topics
    1 Quiz
  5. International Economic Organisations I | Week 5
    4 Topics
  6. International Economic Organisations II | Week 6
    6 Topics
    1 Quiz
  7. Current Economic Plans | Week 7
    5 Topics
    1 Quiz
  8. Economic Development Challenges | Week 8
    4 Topics
  9. Economic Reform Programs | Week 9
    5 Topics

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Definition of Poverty

There are many definitions of poverty depending on the context of the situation and the views of the person giving the definition. Poverty is a pronounced deprivation in well-being and comprises many dimensions.  

It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goals and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, insufficient capacity, and the opportunity to better one’s life.

Poverty can also be seen as the state of human beings who are poor, that is, they have little or no materials means of surviving – little or no food, shelter, clothes, healthcare, education, other physical means of living and improving one’s life.

Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means a lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness, and exclusion of individuals, households, and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation. Poverty is usually measured as either absolute or relative poverty. Poverty occurs in both developing countries and developed countries.

  • Absolute poverty refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries.
  • The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $2 a day (but not a person or family with access to subsistence resources e.g subsistence family).
  • Relative poverty views poverty as socially defined and dependent on social context, hence relative poverty is a measure of income inequality. Relative poverty is measured as the percentage of the proportion of median income. Relative poverty measures are used as official poverty rates in several developed countries.
  1. Precarious livelihoods
  2. Excluded locations
  3. Physical limitations
  4. Gender relationship
  5. Problems in social relationships
  6. Lack of security
  7. Abuse by those in power
  8. Disempowering institutions
  9. Limited capabilities
  10. Weak community organizations

Characteristics of Poverty

The effects of poverty may also be causes, as listed above, thus creating a ‘poverty cycle’ operating across multiple levels, individuals, local, national and global.

1. Health: One-third of deaths are due to poverty-related causes, most of them, women and children, have died as a result of poverty since 1990. People suffer from hunger, starvation, disease, and lower life expectancy which is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality.

2. Hunger: Rises in the costs of living make poor people less able to afford items. Poor people spend a greater portion of their budgets on food than richer people.

3. Education: There is a high risk of educational underachievement for children who are from low-income housing circumstances which begins in primary school for some less fortunate children. It is safe to state that children who live at or below the poverty level will have far less successful education than children who live above the poverty line.

4. Housing: The third world’s urban population live in poverty.

5. Modern slavery: the most common form of human trafficking is prostitution, which is largely fueled by poverty. In Nigeria, a number of girls are turning to prostitution for food to survive because of the increase in poverty.


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