The meaning of poverty

The meaning of poverty The belief that poverty has been virtually eliminated in Britain is commonly held. It has been reiterated in parliament and the press and has gained authority from a stream of books and papers published by economists, sociologists and others in the post‐war years. In the main the proposition rests on three generalizations which are accepted as facts. The first is that full employment, combined with larger real wages and the enormous increase in the numbers of married women in paid employment, has brought prosperity to the mass of the population. The second is that there has been a marked redistribution of income from rich to poor and, indeed, a continuing equalization of income and wealth. And the third is that the introduction of a welfare state has created a net – though some prefer to use the metaphor a feather bed – which prevents nearly all those who are sick, disabled, old or unemployed from falling below a civilized standard of subsistence. Each of these generalizations needs to be examined carefully. We might, for example, ask whether a population of the present size, with 400,000 registered unemployed, constitutes a society with ‘full employment’; or whether, to the official http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The British Journal of Sociology Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
© London School of Economics and Political Science 2010
ISSN
0007-1315
eISSN
1468-4446
DOI
10.1111/j.1468-4446.2009.01241.x
pmid
20092482
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The belief that poverty has been virtually eliminated in Britain is commonly held. It has been reiterated in parliament and the press and has gained authority from a stream of books and papers published by economists, sociologists and others in the post‐war years. In the main the proposition rests on three generalizations which are accepted as facts. The first is that full employment, combined with larger real wages and the enormous increase in the numbers of married women in paid employment, has brought prosperity to the mass of the population. The second is that there has been a marked redistribution of income from rich to poor and, indeed, a continuing equalization of income and wealth. And the third is that the introduction of a welfare state has created a net – though some prefer to use the metaphor a feather bed – which prevents nearly all those who are sick, disabled, old or unemployed from falling below a civilized standard of subsistence. Each of these generalizations needs to be examined carefully. We might, for example, ask whether a population of the present size, with 400,000 registered unemployed, constitutes a society with ‘full employment’; or whether, to the official

Journal

The British Journal of SociologyWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2010

References

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