Examine the argument that poverty is best explained in terms of personal moral failings

Essay by KrissyB December 2003

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Though poverty deals with the lack of possessions or the inability to do the things that are considered "normal", the word "normal" depends on the society in which the person lives. The usual accepted indicator of third world poverty is the number of people living on an income of less than $1 per day, and is termed "absolute income poverty". As this indicator would be inappropriate for use in the UK and the developed world the most widely accepted threshold to show poverty in these regions is 60 per cent of average income after housing costs. This is called "relative income poverty" and is accepted by most researchers, the EU and the UK government.

The World Health Organisation has called poverty the worlds biggest killer, and has shown that being poor increases the risk of ill health and also contributes to disease and death through its effects. Poor people, for example, are more likely to live in an unhealthy environment and many of the worlds poorest are unable to secure even the bare necessities for a healthy life, such as food, water, shelter and health care.

Globally one of the major causes of ill health is malnutrition, which is an issue of poverty rather than an indicator of food shortages. As a result of malnutrition people are more susceptible to infectious and chronic diseases, and statistics show that malnutrition contributes up to one half of deaths among children in developing countries. In addition, more than 1 billion people in developing countries live without adequate shelter, more than 2.9 billion have no access to minimum standards of sanitation and 1.3 billion lack access to safe water and as a result 80 per cent of illnesses are caused by contaminated drinking water.

People who live in poverty often find it difficult to...