Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Meaning of Poverty: Questions of Distribution and Power

Contents:

Author Info

  • Arthur MacEwan
Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    Focusing on the low-income parts of the world and reviewing the different ways we can define poverty, I first argue that what people generally mean by poverty – or, more broadly, by economic well-being – cannot be adequately captured by a single, absolute measure such as income level or a more complex aggregate such as the Human Development Index. Not only do these measures fail to account for the complexity of human material needs, but they also fail to recognize the importance of distributional issues. The failure to incorporate a consideration of distribution in defining poverty is conceptually problematic, if not simply wrong. This failure also creates serious practical problems for campaigns against poverty, at best limiting their impact and at worst dooming them to failure. The United Nations Millennium Goals program is a case in point. If poverty is viewed simply in absolute terms rather than including a consideration of distributional issues, the social structures that generate poverty tend to be ignored. Policy is then viewed as a technical issue and often focuses on particular programs that are directed to helping the poor improve their absolute situation: new seed varieties to raise income, mosquito nets treated with insecticide to improve health, more schools to raise the level of education. These sorts of policies, when they are actually implemented successfully, can have positive impacts. Yet they leave unexamined and unaddressed the social structures and power relations that have generated and continue to generate poverty.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/working_papers/working_papers_101-150/WP148.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst in its series Working Papers with number wp148.

    as in new window
    Length:
    Date of creation: 2007
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp148

    Contact details of provider:
    Postal: 418 N Pleasant St, Amherst MA 01002
    Phone: (413) 545-6355
    Fax: (413) 545-2921
    Email:
    Web page: http://www.peri.umass.edu/
    More information through EDIRC

    Related research

    Keywords: poverty; income distribution; power; Millennium Development Goals; Human Devleopment Index;

    Find related papers by JEL classification:

    References

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer & Vollrath, Dietrich, 2003. "Land Inequality and the Origin of Divergence and Overtaking in the Growth Process: Theory and Evidence," CEPR Discussion Papers 3817, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Rodrik, Dani & Alesina, Alberto, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4551798, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    3. Bowles, Samuel, 1978. "Capitalist development and educational structure," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 6(6), pages 783-796, June.
    4. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 277-291, March.
    5. Luiz de Mello, 1997. "Foreign direct investment in developing countries and growth: A selective survey," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(1), pages 1-34.
    6. Miles Cahill, 2005. "Is the Human Development Index Redundant?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 1-5, Winter.
    7. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2004. "Land Inequality and the Origin of Divergence and Overtaking in the Growth Process," GE, Growth, Math methods 0410004, EconWPA.
    8. Elizabeth Stanton, 2006. "Accounting for Inequality: A Proposed Revision of the Human Development Index," Working Papers wp119, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    9. Cornia, Giovanni Andrea, 1985. "Farm size, land yields and the agricultural production function: An analysis for fifteen developing countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 513-534, April.
    10. Pan-Long Tsai, 1995. "Foreign direct investment and income inequality: Further evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 469-483, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp148. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Judy Fogg).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.