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Relative Poverty

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Encyclopedia of Global Justice

Relative poverty means poverty defined in comparison to other people’s standing in the economy. Thus a person can be poor in the relative sense, even if she is not poor in the absolute sense, that is, can meet her basic needs. Relative poverty can be observed by looking at relative standings within a society, or internationally. Sometimes relative poverty is seen as a phenomenon most relevant in societies in which there is no acute problem with absolute poverty, thus being an ethically less severe problem. Typically, relative poverty is seen as a matter of failure of distributive justice, while absolute poverty is seen as a failure of meeting the requirements of basic dignity of human beings or even a failure to meet human rights. Thus both relative poverty and absolute poverty relate to the issues of global justice, but on two different levels.

In terms of definition, relative poverty can be understood in a psychological sense, referring to wants or expectations of individuals....

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Eskelinen, T. (2011). Relative Poverty. In: Chatterjee, D.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer, Dordrecht.

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