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The important health and social issue of poverty

Accepted 2015 May 9. This article has been cited by the important health and social issue of poverty articles in PMC. Abstract Poverty is commonly defined as a lack of economic resources that has negative social consequences, but surprisingly little is known about the importance of economic hardship for social outcomes.

This article offers an empirical investigation into this issue. We also compare these effects across five different poverty indicators. Our main conclusion is that poverty in general has negative effects on social life. It has more harmful effects for relations with friends and relatives than for social support; and more for political participation than organizational activity.

The poverty indicator that shows the greatest impact is material deprivation lack of cash marginwhile the most prevalent poverty indicators—absolute income poverty, and especially relative income poverty—appear to have the least effect on social outcomes.

The idea is that even when people have food, clothes, and shelter, economic problems lead to a deterioration of social relations and participation. Being poor is about not being able to partake in society on equal terms with others, and therefore in the long run being excluded by fellow citizens or withdrawing from social and civic life because of a lack of economic resources, typically in combination with the concomitant shame of not being able to live a life like them e.

Economic hardship affects the standard of life, consumption patterns, and leisure time activities, and this is directly or indirectly related to the possibility of making or maintaining friends or acquaintances: The relational nature of poverty is also central to the social exclusion literature, which puts poverty in a larger perspective of multiple disadvantages and their interrelationships Hills et al.

While there are different definitions of the social exclusion concept, the literature is characterized by a move from distributional to relational concerns Gore 1995 and by an emphasis on the importance of social integration and active participation in public life. This perspective on poverty and social exclusion is essentially sociological: Despite the fact that the social consequences of limited economic resources are central to modern perspectives on poverty and marginalization, this relation is surprisingly seldom studied empirically.

Qualitative research on the poor give interesting examples on how the negative effects of poverty works, and portray the way that economic problems are transformed into social ones Ridge and Millar 2011 ; Attree 2006.

Such studies, however, have too small sample sizes to generalize to the population, and they cannot tell us much about the range of the problem.

The impact of poverty on the current and future health status of children

All these studies have however been limited to cross-sectional data or hampered by methodological shortcomings, and therefore have not been able to address the separation of selection effects from potentially causal ones. Our aim in this study is to make good these omissions.

We use longitudinal data from the Swedish Level of Living Surveys LNU 2000 and 2010 to study how falling into poverty, or rising from it, is associated with outcomes in terms of primary and secondary social relations, including participation in civil society. These panel data make it possible to generalize the results to the Swedish adult population 19—65 in 2000; 29—75 in 2010to address the issue of causality, and to estimate how strong the relation between economic vulnerability and social outcomes is.

Because the data provide us with the possibility of measuring poverty in several ways, we are also able to address the question using different—alternative or complementary—indicators. Poverty is measured as economic deprivation lack of cash margin, self-reported economic problemsincome poverty absolute and relativeand long-term poverty, respectively. The primary, or core, social outcomes are indicated by having social support if needed, and by social relations with friends and relatives.

We expand our analysis to secondary, or fringe, social outcomes in terms of participation in social life at large, such as in civil society: Three approaches dominate the scholarly literature today.

This usage of a poverty threshold is often somewhat the important health and social issue of poverty called absolute income poverty, and is most common in North America cf. Corak 2006 for a reviewalthough most countries have poverty lines defined for different kinds of social benefits.

The third approach argues that income measures are too indirect; poverty should instead be indicated directly by the lack of consumer products and services that are necessary for an acceptable living standard Mack and Lansley 1985 ; Ringen 1988 ; Townsend 1979. This approach often involves listing a number of possessions and conditions, such as having a car, washing machine, modern kitchen; and being able to dine out sometimes, to have the home adequately heated and mended, to have sufficient insurances, and so on.

Other direct indicators include the ability to cover unforeseen costs cash margin and subjective definitions of poverty e. It is often pointed out that, due to the often quite volatile income careers of households, the majority of poverty episodes are short term and the group that is identified as poor in the cross-section therefore tends to be rather diluted Bane and Ellwood 1986 ; Duncan et al.

Poverty persistence has been defined in several ways, such as having spent a given number of years below a poverty threshold, or having an average income over a number of years that falls under the poverty line e.

The persistently poor can only be detected with any precision in longitudinal studies, and typically on the basis of low the important health and social issue of poverty, as data covering repeated measures of material deprivation are uncommon.

For the purposes of this study, it is not essential to nominate the best or most appropriate poverty measure. The measures outlined above, while each having some disadvantage, all provide plausible theoretical grounds for predicting negative social outcomes.

Economic deprivation, often indicated by items or habits that are directly relevant to social life, is also a valid representation of a lack of resources. Lastly, to be in long-term poverty is no doubt a worse condition than being in shorter-term poverty. It is worth underlining that we see different measures of poverty as relevant indicators despite the fact that the overlap between them often is surprisingly small Bradshaw and Finch 2003.

The lack of overlap is not necessarily a problem, as different people may have different configurations of economic problems but share in common many of the experiences of poverty—experiences, we argue, that are in theory at least all likely to lead to adverse social outcomes. What are the Likely Social Consequences of Poverty? We have concluded that poverty is, according to most influential poverty definitions, manifested in the social sphere. This connects with the idea of Veblen 1899 of the relation between consumption and social status.

What you buy and consume—clothes, furniture, vacation trips—in part define who you are, which group you aspire to belong to, and what view others will have of you. Inclusion into and exclusion from status groups and social circles are, in this view, dependent on economic resources as reflected in consumption patterns.

While Veblen was mostly concerned about the rich and their conspicuous consumption, it is not difficult to transfer these ideas to the less fortunate: It is however likely that this is a process that differs according to outcome, with an unknown time-lag.

If, as outlined above, we can speak of primary and secondary social consequences, the former should include socializing with friends, but also more intimate relations. Our conjecture is that the closer the relation, the less affected is it by poverty, simply because intimate social bonds are characterized by more unconditional personal relations, typically not requiring costs to uphold.

When it comes to the secondary social consequences, we move outside the realm of closer interpersonal relations to acquaintances and the wider social network, and to the sometimes relatively anonymous participation in civil or political life.

Poverty and Health

This dimension of poverty lies at the heart of the social exclusion perspective, which strongly emphasizes the broader issues of societal participation and civic engagement, vital to democratic societies. Poverty may bring about secondary social consequences because such participation is costly—as in the examples of travel, need for special equipment, or membership fees—but also because of psychological mechanisms, such as lowered self-esteem triggering disbelief in civic and political activities, and a general passivity leading to decreased organizational and social activities overall.

  • Action on poverty and inequality can go hand-in-hand While academic debate continues about the relative roles of poverty and inequality in relation to health and social problems, there is strong evidence that both are negative forces and that both need to be tackled;
  • Professionals and organizations working within the health sector are well-positioned to articulate the health-related significance of child poverty and to work collaboratively with other sectors to address child poverty;
  • For those who answer in the affirmative, there is a follow-up question of how this can be done;
  • First, it induced more poor parents to work through a series of new measures, including a national minimum wage higher than its US counterpart and various tax savings for low-income workers.

What theories of poverty and social exclusion postulate is, in conclusion, that both what we have called primary and secondary social relations will be negatively affected by economic hardship—the latter supposedly more than the former. The important health and social issue of poverty strategy in the following is to test this basic hypothesis by applying multivariate panel-data analyses on longitudinal data. In this way, we believe that we can come further than previous studies towards estimating causal effects, although, as is the case in social sciences, the causal relation must remain preliminary due to the nature of observational data.

This is one of the few data sets from which we can get over-time measures of both poverty and social outcomes for a panel that is representative of the adult population at the first time point, t0 —in addition, there is annual income information from register data between the waves.

The panel feature obviously restricts the age-groups slightly ages 19—65 in 2000; 29—75 in 2010the final number of analyzed cases being between 2995 and 3144, depending on the number of missing cases on the respective poverty measure and social outcome variable. For example, we expand the absolute poverty measure to include those who received social assistance any time during the year.

As social assistance recipients receive this benefit based on having an income below a poverty line that is similar to the one we use, this seems justifiable.

The Social Consequences of Poverty: An Empirical Test on Longitudinal Data

In other cases, however, group sizes are small but we find no theoretically reasonable way of making the variables more inclusive, meaning that some analyses cannot be carried out in full detail.

Our income poverty measures are based on register data and are thus free from recall error or misreporting, but—as the proponents of deprivation measures point out—income poverty measures are indirect measures of hardship. The deprivation measure is more direct, but self-reporting always carries a risk of subjectivity in the assessment. In addition, we are able to see whether results vary systematically across commonly used definitions.

  1. Temporal trends in rural and urban areas, British Columbia. Life cycle effects between ages 23 and 33 in the 1958 British birth cohort.
  2. Describe the family and housing problems associated with poverty.
  3. Physical aggression is also more prevalent among socioeconomically disadvantaged children 36. The social context of childhood injury in Canada.

Poverty Measures Economic deprivation combines information from two survey questions: Cash margin whether the respondent can raise a given sum of money in a week, if necessary in 2000, the sum was 12,000 SEK; in 2010, 14,000 SEK, the latter sum corresponding to approximately 1600 Euro, 2200 USD, or 1400 GBP in 2013 currency rates. For those who answer in the affirmative, there is a follow-up question of how this can be done: Economic crisis Those who claim that they have had problems meeting costs for rent, food, bills, etc.

As economically deprived we classify those who 1 have no cash margin, or 2 can raise money only by borrowing in combination with having reported economic crisis. Absolute poverty is defined as either a having a disposable family income below a poverty threshold or b receiving social assistance, both assessed in 1999 for the survey 2000 or 2009 for the survey 2010. The threshold is adjusted for changes in the Consumer Price Index, using 2010 as the base year.

In order to get analyzable group sizes, we classify anyone with an income below 1. Self-employed are excluded because their nominal incomes are often a poor indicator of their economic standard. Deprived and income poor A combination of the indicator of economic deprivation and the indicator of absolute poverty. The poor are defined as those who are economically deprived and in addition are either absolute income-poor or have had social assistance some time during the last calendar year.

Long-term poor are defined as those interviewed in 2010 2000 who had an equivalized disposable income that fell below the 1. The long-term poor coded 1 are contrasted to the non-poor coded 0excluding the short-term poor coded missing in order to distinguish whether long-term poverty is particularly detrimental as compared to absolute poverty in general.

Social and Participation Outcomes Primary core Social Relations Social support The value 1 has support is given to those who have answered in the positive to three questions about whether one has a close friend who can help if one a gets sick, b needs someone to talk to about troubles, or c needs company.

Those who lack support in at least one of these respects are coded 0 lack of support. Coded 1 yes if one is a member of an organization and actively participate in its activities at least once in a year, and 0 no otherwise.

Immigrant origin is coded 1 if both parents were born in any country outside Sweden, 0 otherwise.

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Global self-rated health in 2000, with three response alternatives: Good, bad, or in between. Recall that the sample is longitudinal with the same respondents appearing in both years. Both the change over years and the ageing of the sample have repercussions for their conditions: The group has however improved their economic conditions, with a sizeable reduction in poverty rates.