Labourers in a rural area of Hyderabad - Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Poverty adopts many faces, depending on where the poor are located and how long they have been on the negative side of the poverty line, as well as the cause behind their status and the level of poverty they experience. The differences between those facets help in the design of policies specifically designed to tackle each case. However, there are strong patterns among all kinds of poverty that permit the outlining of general characteristic of poverty.
A 2014 report by the Census Bureau of the United States found that the level of education is deeply related to poverty. Said report cited 28% of people aged 25 or more who did not have a high school diploma as living below the poverty line. This doubles the amount of poor people with a bachelor’s degree of higher. This pattern is not exclusive to the United States —Wodon and Ayres (2000) obtained similar results in a study of Latin America and the Caribbean, where “better educated household members reduce the probability of being poor”.
Other characteristics of poverty are how the spending money is distributed —most of it goes to food, followed closely by housing and fuel. A minuscule amount is used in healthcare (Ahmed et al, 2000)— and remoteness, as poverty is higher in rural areas, despite urban poverty being on the rise. Landlessness, as well as access to electricity are also characteristics of poverty. The first, because it hinders the access of the poor to food security; the second, because it suggests vast distances between the poor household and roads, villages, etc.
Ahmed et al, in a study performed in 20 countries, found that in each of them “some groups —not the majority— have consistently higher prevalence of poverty and hunger”. According to the authors, across Asia and in Latin America, different castes and ethnicities are excluded from society and subsequently fall below the poverty line.
This is backed by report of the Census Bureau mentioned above, which found that in 2014, in the United States ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and women constituted the majority of people living in poverty. Other factors like age (Vargas et al, 2007) and immigrant status are also characteristics of poverty