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How poor is 'poor'?: Towards a rights-based poverty line

How poor is 'poor'?: Towards a rights-based poverty line

REPORT by David Woodward for the New Economics Foundation (nef)

nef, May 2010

Poverty is usually defined by the '$1-a-day' line developed by the World Bank. But David Woodward argues that a broader approach, based on human rights, which also takes into account actual living standards is needed.

The 'dollar-a-day' definition of poverty has been widely adopted by the international community. But this definiton focuses exclusively on one aspect of poverty, namely income, to the exclusion of other critical aspects of deprivation, such as assets, access to essential services, and social exclusion. Even in the context of income, it sets the poverty line at an essentially arbitrary level. It also gives rise to a number of serious technical problems in the measurement of poverty, comparisons between countries, and analysis of changes in poverty over time.

In this paper Woodward summarises the fundamental problems with the $1-a-day approach, and what they mean for what we think we know about poverty. It goes on to review other alternatives, to assess whether they provide a more viable alternative. Finally, it proposes a new approach – a rights-based poverty line (RBPL), based on the level of income at which living standards consistent with economic and social rights are actually achieved in each country – which, we argue, resolves the problems inherent in the definition of poverty more satisfactorily than the other alternatives.

Click here to read the report


15.09.2016
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