Situational Poverty: Definition and Types

Situational poverty is a period wherein a person falls below the poverty like because of an adverse event - Photo Credit: Flickr

Situational poverty is a period wherein an individual falls below the poverty line because of a sudden event. Situational poverty can be caused by a range of factors, such as: a divorce, death of the family head, illness, a natural disaster or loss of job. These are uncontrollable and often unpredictable events that can escalate until the person finds themselves without material possessions or an income source.


Situational poverty can be caused by a turn in the national economy or decisions specific to the household experiencing poverty - Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This information can be found on a previous post, which discusses the general types of poverty. Focusing only in situational poverty, it essentially has two types:

  1. Cyclical: This depends on the ebb and flow of the national and global economy. For example, Europe was badly affected by the 2008-2013 great recession, which resulted in lower income levels and increased unemployment rates for the European countries. Hence, some people lost their jobs and others found themselves not being able to make ends meet with what they earned, thus falling below the poverty line.
  2. Of assets: It is triggered by a crisis specific to those experiencing poverty. Two types of household are commonplace to this type of poverty:
  • Relatively secure middle-class families: Their fall below the poverty line usually encompasses making a high-risk decision.
  • Families with permanently low income: The position of these families shifts constantly from above to below the poverty line and they are described by Leisering and Leibfriend as having a “precarious well-being”.

People experiencing situational poverty usually have better tools to cope and overcome their setback than those who live in generational poverty - Photo Credit: Flickr

Despite their precarious situation, people experiencing situational poverty are usually able to escape it. They often come from a well-off background and had access to education, as well as knowledge on the social codes of the middle classes, which are useful tools in both coping and overcoming poverty. They generally have a safety net or support system comprised of friends or community members who help them get back on their feet.

Finally, situational poverty is frequently addressed by the government in the form of temporary aids, help in job placement and other benefits to allow people to bounce back instead of falling through the cracks. This encourages growth and prevents the creation of a poverty trap and thus of generational poverty.


Generational Poverty
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