Measures of Material Hardship: Final Report. Poverty, Deprivation, and Material Hardship

04/01/2004

Poverty is a multidimensional phenomenon and as a result may be conceptualized and measured in different ways. For example, in her presentation at the Roundtable Meeting, Susan Mayer made the following observations: "material hardship is not necessarily synonymous with poverty" and "hardship measures are not the same as income measures." These comments reflect the fact that researchers and the public oftentimes do not differentiate between the terms 'poverty,' 'deprivation,' and 'hardship.' The confusion among these terms is a sign of both the interrelationship among these concepts and the fact that people often assign different meanings to these words.

Citro and Michael (1995) describe economic poverty as the extent to which households experience a "low level of material goods and services or a low level of resources to obtain these goods and services" (p. 21, emphasis added). These two forms of economic poverty are conceptually quite different; one focuses on the lack of resources, most often measured in terms of income, and the second on the lack of goods and services, or deprivation. Short (2003) takes this distinction one step further by distinguishing between income poverty and non-income poverty, or deprivation measures.

In the following sections we contrast resource- or income-based poverty measures with those that measure deprivation, which include measures of material hardship.

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