The measurement of poverty as ‘consistent’ poverty offers a solution to one of the primary problems of poverty measurement within Social Policy of the last three decades. Often treated as if they were synonymous, ‘indirect’ measures of poverty, such as low income measures, and ‘direct’ measures, such as indices of material deprivation, identify surprisingly different people as being poor. In response to this mismatch, a team of Irish researchers put forward a measure which identified respondents in as being in poverty when they experienced both a low standard of living, as measured by deprivation indicators, and a lack of resources, as measured by a low income line. Importantly, they argued that the two measures required an equal weight. In this paper, I present a reconsideration of the consistent poverty measure from both conceptual and empirical perspectives. In particular, I examine the claim that low income and material deprivation measures should be given an ‘equal weight’. I argue that, from a conceptual perspective, the nature of the indicators at hand means that a deprivation-led measurement approach might be understood to align with the definition of poverty which Nolan and Whelan outline and, from an empirical perspective, that it is the material deprivation measure—and not the low income measure—which is particularly effective in identifying individuals at risk of multiple forms of deprivation. However, I argue that greater attention needs to be given to the question of whether indicators of material deprivation provide a sufficient measure of material poverty and suggest that advancing the measurement of material deprivation beyond its relatively rudimentary state represents an important priority for poverty research.
KeywordsConsistent poverty Material deprivation Low income
The author thanks Tony Atkinson, Eunica Aure, Tania Burchardt, Jack Cunliffe, Ian Gough, Björn Halleröd, John Hills, Abigail McKnight, David Piachaud and an anonymous referee for their comments and suggestions. The remaining errors are, of course, my own. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [Grant Number ES/G01808X/1].
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