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Does it Matter that we do not Agree on the Definition of Poverty? A Comparison of Four Approaches

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  • Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi
  • Ruhi Saith
  • Frances Stewart

Abstract

While there is world-wide agreement on poverty reduction as an overriding goal of development policy, there is little agreement on the definition of poverty. Four approaches to the definition and measurement of poverty are reviewed in this paper: the monetary, capability, social exclusion and participatory approaches. The theoretical underpinnings of the various measures and problems of operationalizing them are pointed out. It is argued that each is a construction of reality, involving numerous judgements, which are often not transparent. The different methods have different implications for policy, and also, to the extent that they point to different people as being poor, for targeting. Empirical work in Peru and India shows that there is significant lack of overlap between the methods with, for example, nearly half the population identified as in poverty according to monetary poverty but not in capability poverty, and conversely. This confirms similar findings elsewhere. Hence, the definition of poverty does matter for poverty eradication strategies.

Suggested Citation

  • Caterina Ruggeri Laderchi & Ruhi Saith & Frances Stewart, 2003. "Does it Matter that we do not Agree on the Definition of Poverty? A Comparison of Four Approaches," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 243-274.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:31:y:2003:i:3:p:243-274
    DOI: 10.1080/1360081032000111698
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