Nonincome Poverty

Essay by kaaanch December 2010

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Nonincome poverty is poverty status that occurs from restricted access to opportunity and resources necessary for health and safety. Nonincome poverty includes lack of social services and infrastructure such as education, primary healthcare, water, sanitation, roads, and power. It also includes environmental degradation or the lack of natural resources necessary for human well-being. While income poverty, or the lack of adequate household income, is closely linked, nonincome poverty encompasses a wider range of factors that contribute to conditions of poverty. It also helps us to understand the extent and experience of poverty and to develop appropriate poverty reduction strategies.

While nonincome poverty is often defined as the range of contributing factors to poverty that deal primarily with noneconomic issues, such factors directly impinge on the economic well-being of households. Nonincome poverty, for example, includes a lack of asset wealth that people can draw upon to sustain themselves above poverty or use to rise out of poverty.

Asset wealth comes in the form of human capital (knowledge and skill) and in the form of financial assets such as owning property, a home, a business, or a savings account.


Official measures of poverty typically focus only on income levels, underestimating the importance of household wealth, skills, and opportunities to overall economic health. While considerable literature suggests various ways to measure nonincome poverty (for example, material hardship, social deprivation, isolation, civil conflict), no single variable yields a complete picture.

In the United States, where the official poverty measure is strictly linked to income, other factors associated with hardship suggest that the official measure is not sufficient to identify the extent and nature of human deprivation. Some scholars, for example, found that the incidence of material hardship was differentially correlated with income across different demographic groups, leading...