Because of its multi-dimensional nature, it is complex to provide an accurate definition of poverty and the poor. Poverty is related with a state of physical want regarded as insufficient means to meet minimum needs for nutrition, housing, health and education. It is often aggravated by lack of access to employment opportunities and by various forms of discrimination.
Poverty has many manifestations: starvation, malnutrition, illiteracy, poor health, substandard clothing and housing, vulnerability to events and circumstances which place lives and livelihoods in danger, environmental degradation and insecure employment or habitation, and the stigma associated with a precarious financial situation. In many cases, poverty is perpetuated by exclusion from decision-making and lack of participation in the political process and in business and cultural affairs.
Poverty occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in developing countries with low average incomes and as pockets of poverty in economically advanced countries with high average incomes. Poverty is a condition characterized by deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. Poverty is not entirely a matter of absolute levels of living but must be assessed in relation to what is available to others.
Poverty affects disproportionately women and children, the weak and disabled and those in rural areas. In almost all countries, there are more women than men at the lowest level of income and households headed by women are among the poorest groups in every society.
The identification of levels, trends and patterns of poverty necessitates using economic and social indicators that can provide a profile of the poor and allow for an assessment of the effectiveness of different policies aimed at reducing absolute and relative poverty.
- Standard of living indicators
- Poverty incidence indicators
- Poverty depth indicator
- Relative poverty indicator
- Social indicators
Because of its complex nature and the limited volume and usefulness of available data, no one set of indicators can serve to measure all aspects of poverty. A fundamental constraint exists, furthermore, in that for reasons of data availability traditional measures of poverty and the poor population focus on the income dimension of poverty.