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Comparative Assessment of Methods for Measuring Consensual Poverty: Sort Card Versus CAPI


Poverty means more than having a low income and includes exclusion from a minimally accepted way of life. It is now common practice in Europe to measure progress against poverty in terms of low income, material deprivation rates and some combination of both. This makes material deprivation indicators, and their selection, highly significant in its own right. The ‘consensual poverty’ approach is to identify deprivation items which a majority of the population agree constitute life’s basic necessities, accepting that these items will need revised over time to reflect social change. Traditionally, this has been carried out in the UK through specialised poverty surveys using a Sort Card (SC) technique. Based on analysis of a 2012 omnibus survey, and discussions with three interviewers, this article examines how perception of necessities is affected by mode of administration—SC and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI). More CAPI respondents scored deprivation items necessary. Greatest disparities are in material items where 25 out of 32 items were significantly higher via CAPI. Closer agreement is found in social participation with 3 out of 14 activities significantly different. Consensus is higher on children’s material deprivation. We consider influencing variables which could account for the disparities and believe that the SC method produces a more considered response. However, in light of technological advances, we question how long the SC method will remain socially acceptable. This paper concludes that the CAPI method can be easily modified without compromising the benefits of the SC method in capturing thoughtful responses.

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  1. 1.

    A relative risk ratio of 2.0 means twice the risk, a score of 0.5 means half the risk, a score of 3.0 is three times the risk and a score of 0.33 is a third of the risk and so forth. A relative risk of 1 would indicate that there are no differences between the two groups (see Gordon 2012 for more information).

  2. 2.

    Confidence intervals provide information about the range in which the true value lies with a certain degree of probability. Thus a 95 % confidence interval means we can be sure 95 % of the time that the findings are not due to chance. If the 95 % confidence intervals of a relative risk ratio span 1.0 then we cannot be confident at the 5 % level that the difference is significant.


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The research reported here was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Grant Number RES-060-25-0052

Author information

Correspondence to Grace P. Kelly.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


Appendix 1

See Table 6.

Table 6 Adult items and activities

Appendix 2

See Table 7.

Table 7 Children’s items and activities

Appendix 3

See Table 8.

Table 8 Number of significant differences across social groups

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Kelly, G.P., Tomlinson, M.W. & Patsios, D. Comparative Assessment of Methods for Measuring Consensual Poverty: Sort Card Versus CAPI. Soc Indic Res 129, 677–698 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-015-1150-z

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  • Deprivation
  • Socially perceived necessities
  • Poverty
  • Social exclusion
  • Sort Card
  • CAPI
  • Mode of administration