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Exploring poverty

In this first week we will be exploring the issue of poverty; watch the video with Dan to find out more.
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Welcome to week 1 of the ‘understanding and solving social problems’ course! In this first week we will be exploring the issue of poverty; what is it? How do we measure it? Who experiences it? Where is it? We’ll begin with some basic definitions, but show that even here, there is disagreement! York has a long and interesting relationship with poverty; some of the first ever research into poverty was conducted by members of the Rowntree family – yes – the sweetie makers – and today researchers from both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the University of York are at the forefront of the debate, in terms of charting poverty rates, influencing government policy, and understanding the experiences of those who live in poverty.
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For the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, poverty is simply – when your resources are well below your minimum needs. But what do we mean by minimum needs? Are our minimum needs simply shelter, warmth, and sustenance? Or should we think about a more encompassing set of needs – what we might need to experience a decent standard of living? What we need to play an active role in society? Can we answer that by simply looking at a person’s or household’s income? Income – or money more generally, is of course important because it is the resource that unlocks all others. But poverty extends beyond this. In the UK, many consider a person
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to be in poverty if they: Live in a household in which that household’s income is 60% below the median household income after housing costs for that year. So, in the UK this would mean that if your household income was less than £18,000 you would be considered as living in poverty. For a 22 year old working full time on the minimum wage, their annual salary would be just below £18,000 Having a poverty line that is relative to the wider earnings in society is important – and not the only way to consider poverty – for it means that you are poor if you are unable to live at the standard that most other people would expect.
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A child can have three meals a day, warm clothes and go to school, but still be poor because her parents don’t have enough money to ensure she can live in a warm home, have access to a computer to do her homework, or go on the same school trips as her classmates. Would you agree with this? What does poverty mean to you?

For the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, poverty is simply when your resources are well below your minimum needs. But what do we mean by minimum needs?

Are our minimum needs simply shelter, warmth, and sustenance? Or should we think about a more encompassing set of needs – what we might need to experience a decent standard of living? What we need to play an active role in society? Can we answer that by simply looking at a person’s or household’s income?

What does poverty mean to you? Share your thoughts in the Comments.

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Understanding and Solving Poverty and Inequality

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