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What Is Absolute Poverty? - Definition, Causes & Examples

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  • 0:03 Absolute Poverty Definition
  • 2:03 Causes of Absolute Poverty
  • 3:17 Examples
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Nearly a quarter of people in the world are living in absolute poverty. Learn more about absolute poverty and its causes from examples, then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Definition of Absolute Poverty

Absolute poverty refers to a condition where a person does not have the minimum amount of income needed to meet the minimum requirements for one or more basic living needs over an extended period of time. This includes things like:

  • Food:
    Adults who have a body mass index that is below 17, or children who are over three standard deviations below a certain age/weight/height criteria
  • Safe drinking water:
    Having to use surface water (i.e. rivers or streams), or having to spend at least 30 minutes to collect water from some source
  • Sanitation facilities:
    Lack of access to any type of toilet facility
  • Health:
    Lack of access to any type of health care, including immunizations, prenatal care, or treatment for serious illnesses
  • Shelter:
    Kids who live in places where there are more than four people to a room, adults who live in places with more than three people to a room, or adults and children who live in places with no floors
  • Education:
    School-age children who have not in the past or are not currently in school, or adults who have not attended school and cannot read or write
  • Information:
    Lack of access to any type of media, including radio, television, or computer
  • Access to services:
    Lack of access to schools, health services, etc.

Living in absolute poverty is harmful and can endanger your life. The standards set for absolute poverty are the same across countries. When it was established in 1990, the World Bank set the global absolute poverty line as living on less than $1 a day.

Causes of Absolute Poverty

The causes of absolute poverty include:

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