The different dimensions of poverty

Poverty in general represents the inability of the person to meet their basic needs for physical survival and well being.

A condition of life so characterised by mal nutrition, illiteracy, disease , high infant mortality and low life expectancy are below any reasonable definition of human decency.

Poverty is both relative and absolute. Relative poverty refers to a state where some people have more goods and services than others. A poor person has income below a certain level called povert level. Thus it does not necessarily mean that those who are below such an income level suffer from deprivation of basic needs.

On other hand, absolute suffer from insufficiency of basic needs of life.

Poverty major causes

The different dimension sof poverty are

  • minimum consumption or income level is defined
  • Socio-psychological
  • Cultural
  • Political
  • Socio-economic i.e. housing , urban services
  • Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area

Physical and ecological conditions of living in a particular area

As the population is growing, the pressure on natural resources is increasing and also the environment. Uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources and population growth disturb the environment equilibrium and create conditions in which human basic needs cant be satisfied and thus leading to poverty. The cultivable land per person decreases as the population grows. With vast number of people migrating and the need for better survival conditions demands , the pressure of population growth on the resources , rendered poor through years of colonial exploitation has lead to enormous levels of poverty.


Deprivation of basic needs produce multifarious effecrs on the development and functioning of humans. If the individual suffers from deprivation of basic needs of food, shelter , clothing , housing, water , sanitation and security, that person becomes the target of psychological imbalances which may remain dormant and create deep-rooted feeling of powerlessness. This powerlessness leads to hopelessness , fatalism or apathy and in extreme cases results in psycho pathetic condition. They are bound to to stress full situation and shocks and the ability to absorb shocks varies and thus they become emotionally unstable. Anxiety, aggression, depression are common among poor people.


Culture also shapes poverty. family structure, interpersonal relations , time orientation , value system and spending patter as a part of culture of the poor people define poverty. As most of the slums in city are located in the fringes of elite people and they often subdue themselves that they cannot achieve the status of larger society. Thus this leads to creation of their own perception , a different kinf of life style which helps them to cope up with their fellow slum mates and thus to a situation of hopelessness. This leads to low level of aspiration which further degrades their situation and thus leads to more poverty. Because of high unemployment , low wages for labourers also lead to low aspiration among the poor. This thus leads to sub culture of the poor. When this sub culture of poverty comes into existence , it perpetuates itself from generation to generation because of its effect on the children. This leads to change in the attitudes of nature of individual, then the family, nature of slum community and also nature of larger society

Lack of effective participation and integration of poor in major institutions of larger society can cause alienation leading to the development of sub culture of poverty. It is thus much more difficult to eliminate this sub culture of poverty than poverty itself.

Measurement of Poverty

There are various approaches to study of poverty

Economic: This provides for useful explanation of poverty. The level of poverty and its magnitude can be clearly measured in economic terms. In this type of analysis, poor are those who do not have a defined level of income which is required for the fulfilling of basic requirements. The criterion to draw this poverty line is the expenditure on consumption. Therefore minimum nutrition intake for normal health . the critics have contended that this is a measure of absolute poverty. It ignores very vital and significant indicators of quality of life. If we consider the minimum nutritional requirements in terms of balanced diet and also other basic needs, such as clothing , shelter , urban services, the minimum income required to meet these needs is much higher than suggested by this model of calorie intake of 2100 or 24oo calories per capita in urban and rural respectively.

Spatial Dimension of Urban poverty

The incidence of urban poverty varies from state to state and also among different size classes of cities. Even within a city, the percentage of people living below the poverty line and in slums varies depending upon whether the slums or squatter settlements are recent origin or very old of about 25 to 30 years or whether slums are on public lands or private lands or whether any improvement work has been carried out in slum areas by public agencies.

Composition and characteristics of urban poor

Three basic questions are

  • Who are poor?
  • What do they do?
  • How they live?

Demographic Characteristics

Poor people have large household size that non- poor. However, there are large variations in their mean household size which depend upon the socio-cultural and economic factors in each region.

Urban Poor are mostly are mostly migrants from rural areas. But recent studies have shown that migrants are often better off than non migrants.


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