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The Evolution of Thinking About Poverty: Exploring the Interactions

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This paper considers the evolution ofthinking about poverty since Rowntree's classic study ofpoverty in England at the turn ofthe last century. It highlights the progressive broadening ofthe definition and measurement ofpoverty, from command over market-purchased goods (income) to other dimensions ofliving standards such as longevity, literacy and healthiness, and , most recently, to concerns with risk and vulnerability, and powerlessness and lack ofvoice. The paper argues that while there is a correlation between these different dimensions, this broadening changes significantly our thinking about strategies to reduce poverty. A broader definition expands the set ofpolicies that are relevant to the reduction of poverty. But the broadening also emphasizes that poverty reducing strategies must recognize the interactions among the policies--the impact of appropriately designed combinations will be greater than the sum ofthe individual parts.

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WP 1999-24 September 1999

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1999-09-01

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Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University

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