So far this month the Development Roast blog has published articles about being poor but not feeling poor, challenges of identifying the poor and consumerism to hide poverty. All of which highlight the loose and ever changing perception that people have of poverty.
As a result, the topic of pro-poor development often sparks lengthy debates when raised, since without a specific definition of what poverty is and what it is not, people differ in their views of how to relieve people of this intangible concept. This is especially the case when supposedly very poor people actively choose their lifestyle over one that offers financial gains through entering the world markets, a phenomenon that is largely attributed to poor people’s assumption that certain financial improvements would threaten their community lifestyle, which in the end is what they prize above all else.Real poverty, rather than just being poor, can be defined in terms of food insecurity: if you cannot provide food for yourself and your family due to physical or circumstantial restrictions to sufficient finances or fertile land, then you are living in poverty.
However, others say that poverty is defined by living on less than a set sum (say US$2) per day, whilst others still define it as lacking access to certain resources, such as education, health services or even a television set. In other words, there is no set definition of poverty, leading countries to set their own national poverty lines depending on their state of development.
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Mieke Dale-Harris is working as an intern at the Institute of Advanced Development Studies (INESAD), La Paz, Bolivia. She is a psychology graduate from Goldsmiths College, University of London.