Why defining a strict poverty line might not be a good thing
Although defining a poverty line is good so that statistics can be defined, studies and therefore aid can be arranged, it is dependent on who determines the poverty line and if they have an underlining political motive. If a government only gives aid to those people under the poverty line, then it’s in their best interests economically to have the line as low as possible. If the poverty line is a very low number, there will be less people under the line and therefore less people who qualify for aid.
And who’s to say that the person just over that line isn’t in as dire need as the person just under that line? Maybe the person just under doesn’t have to pay for rent because they own their house and they walk to work so have no transportation costs. And maybe the person just over the line has to pay to commute to work, has a high rent because they live in a city and has a medical condition that drains a lot of their money. The person under the line would need less assistance than the person just over the line, but if it was defined in strict terms, that person above the line (even though they need it) wouldn’t qualify for help.
By defining the poverty line as a specific number (ie. income, or based on basic needs defined monetarily), without taking into account social factors and living conditions, many people who are in need could be left out. Also, having a low poverty line makes it look as though less people are in need, and can advance certain political motives.
Although, what would we do without a measure of poverty? In order to fix something, you need to define what the problem is/what it is you’re fixing. It’s easier to define it in concrete terms, than abstract ideas (as I’m having a problem with while trying to redefine what I’m doing this month). I suppose the only thing we can do is realize that poverty is dependent on numerous factors and continue to develop methods to quantify this, like the UN’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, in conjunction with the monetary values of the income-based poverty lines.