Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Sheila D. Collins
Poverty is one of the world's most costly and serious social problems. It represents the vast unused and underused potential of millions of people; it costs societies in lost revenues, in lost productivity, in ill health, social dysfunction, and environmental degradation and in vast sums that must be spent either to alleviate poverty's worst symptoms through social welfare programs or to police or control its unruly victims. Social scientists generally define poverty in two ways. Absolute poverty is the condition in which people are unable to achieve the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Relative poverty refers to some socially constructed norm of well-being in comparison to some proportion of a society thought to be lacking. The “poor” in the rich industrialized countries are not, for the most part, materially deprived in the absolute sense. With the help of government transfer programs, such as income A ...