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The Forum > Article Comments > A ‘poverty professional’ fights back! > Comments

A ‘poverty professional’ fights back! : Comments

By Peter Saunders, published 22/8/2005

Peter Saunders offers a riposte to the 'other' Peter Saunders on the definition of poverty.

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No doubt this articles will be followed by further healthy debate between the two Peters.

What would be really useful is if in addition to debating the points of difference we could arrive at a summary of what the two Peters actually do agree on.

So far it would seem that they agree that:-

1. Poverty is not just about your income in dollars or where you fall in percentile terms.
2. We should compare apples for apples.

There is an accusation made by Peter-SPRC that Peter-CIS is barking at straw men. However at the risk of also barking at straw men myself let me say this:-

If you are in the bottom 10% by income in 1990 and then in the bottom 5% in year 2000 then this does not mean that your personal level of poverty has necessarily increased or that your income has necessary decreased. Firstly because income is not an objective measure of poverty. And secondly because it would not be a case of comparing income apples for income apples. The reason being that the spectrum of income against which the figure is normalised in 1990 and the spectrum of income levels that it is normalised against in 2000 are not the same.
Posted by Terje, Monday, 22 August 2005 5:51:45 PM
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Well said Terje – someone will always be on the bottom just as others will always be on top and a whole lot more in the middle.
I must commend you on your observation, poverty is not just about “income”. I would tend to believe ‘economic poverty’ is a consequence of real ‘poverty’ in areas of personal skills which we do not bother to measure objectively – with the exception of “academic poverty”, such as an absence of basic social and interaction skills, capacity to plan and follow-up on a plan or appreciate the feelings and expectations of others.

Do any broad based qualitative test or sample and you will find

The “economically impoverished” represent those who are “impoverished” across a range of underlying basic skills, of which “academic” is but one.

The hard issue is – lacking these “basic skills” means that, regardless of the amount of welfare resource a society pushes at them, that “welfare” effort will not alleviate the problem.
It may help placate the “guilt trip” which some who believe they are "better gifted" seem to use as a crutch (for their own reason).
It may feed the hungry for the day and leave them with less incentive for tomorrow.
It will develop "cargo-cult" attitudes
Posted by Col Rouge, Tuesday, 23 August 2005 10:57:43 AM
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