Who's Poor?
March 29, 2006 11:19 PM   Subscribe

The Measurement of Poverty
posted by Gyan (6 comments total)
I have always found Adam Smith's comment very interesting:
"By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but what ever the customs of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably, though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-laborer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into, without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England."
posted by jb at 4:31 AM on March 30, 2006

Having now finished it, this is a very interesting article, thank you.
posted by jb at 4:35 AM on March 30, 2006

what needs monitoring is how poor families make out compared with everybody else, not their absolute living standards.

Thoughts on this?
posted by nads at 5:05 AM on March 30, 2006

It is indeed relative - one economist pointed out that most people would rather earn $110,000 with everyone else earning $90,000, rather than earn $150,000 with everyone else earning $200,000. There is some logic to this in a model economy - everyone else being afford to spend/bid more raises the price of many things, especially scarce and essential goods like housing/real estate.
posted by theorique at 6:16 AM on March 30, 2006

The claim made is even stronger, theorique. Some economists argue inequality enters directly in people's (and monkeys?) preferences.
posted by ~ at 7:14 AM on March 30, 2006

..lame broken html..
posted by ~ at 7:16 AM on March 30, 2006

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