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April 24, 2018 / C H Thompson

Evaluation of Townsend’s Deprivation Index

  • Townsend’s deprivation index consisted of measuring the percentage of:
  • Households without a car
  • Overcrowded households
  • Households not owner-occupied homes
  • Persons unemployed
  • Therefore if you were an unemployed person living in an overcrowded household in a home you don’t own and are without a car according to Townsend you were poor

Strengths of Townsend’s deprivation index:

  • it challenges the notion of there being universal concept of what constitutes poverty
  • it recognises you cannot objectively decide what basic subsistence needs are
  • it recognises the poor cannot always shop around to get the cheapest goods
  • it recognises the cheapest goods are not always available in the first place
  • it recognises social exclusion – how people are social creatures who ‘need’ to socially integrate by buying ‘appropriate’ things such as gifts
  • it recognises minimum diets do not recognise different the calorific needs of people. A builder might need more calories than an office worker

Weaknesses of Townsend’s deprivation index are:

  • it is said to be measuring inequality rather than poverty
  • Wedderburn (1981) said the choice of deprivation indicators was not objective; the index consisted of items which reflected Townsend’s own tastes and values
  • Piachaud (1987) argues the deprivation index ignores individual choice as some people might not have the items on Townsend’s list simply because they didn’t want them
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