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April 24, 2018 / C H Thompson

Absolute and Relative Poverty

  • Poverty is a contested concept, – there is little agreement on how it should be either defined or measured. Therefore there are two fundamental ways of defining and measuring poverty. There’s more information on these two terms here
  • absolute poverty – is the lack of the minimum requirements needed for human survival such as food, water, shelter and clothing
  • relative poverty – is a definition of poverty which is constructed with regard to what is the generally accepted standard of living in a specific society at a specific time compared to others. For example you could be seen to be in poverty in the UK if you didn’t have a cooker, fridge-freezer, telephone etc
  • The concept of absolute poverty was developed in the 19th century by Seebohm Rowntree who used the concept of a ‘basket of goods’ to measure poverty.
  • Rowntree’s basket of goods approach was used until the midpoint of the 20th century by early social scientists to measure poverty



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