What is poverty?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Poverty is about not having enough. Typically, ‘poverty’ refers to not having enough resources. Income is the primary resource lacking for people living in poverty in Scotland. However, poverty is sometimes the word that is used to describe when people have ‘capability deprivation’ (a lack of freedoms that collectively we value). Most experts would agree that a lack of resources (in particular, insufficient income) has a central role to play in creating or sustaining capability deprivation. ‘Income poverty’ has also been of central importance in anti-poverty activity, debate and policy in Scotland. Thus, for practical purposes in Scotland, ‘not having enough’ is understood to be a point below which people do not have sufficient disposable income to purchase the goods and services, and participate in the activities, that it is expected the majority of the UK population should be able to afford. In Scotland (and the UK), income poverty tends to be understood in one of four main ways – absolute poverty, relative poverty, persistent poverty and severe poverty. The interpretation that is used most is relative poverty. Indeed, persistent poverty and severe poverty are merely different ways of defining relative poverty. Poverty is not the same as income inequality, social exclusion, social justice, multiple deprivation and material deprivation. However, poverty is closely related to each of these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPoverty in Scotland 2011: Towards a More Equal Scotland?
EditorsJohn H. McKendrick, Gerry Mooney, Peter Kelly, John Dickie
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherChild Poverty Action Group
Number of pages12
Edition6th Revised
ISBN (Print)9781906076597
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • poverty
  • Scotland
  • social welfare
  • definition
  • welfare policy


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