poverty is a relative term. to me,poverty can be defined as is if a person is living and: a) they do not have sufficient access to food, water, and/or shelter, b) there is not enough natural resources/ in a person's geographical location to sustain life and make progress towards a better life, and c) they cannot escape their geographical location. the first requirement is almost obvious and needs little explanation, survival is number one. “sufficient” in this characteristic, is a term worth defining. by “sufficient” i mean to have enough food, water, and shelter to have enough energy to work and enough health to stay alive. the second and third requirements are reliant on failing the first. the second requirement, i speculate, is so i may still effectively define those most severely overcome by poverty; those that are stuck in the midst of the poverty cycle, one which compels people to cut down those last remaining trees without re-planting, until there are not even trees as natural resources for homes, goods, animals to reside in, or even to shade. as Sachs points out in his book, The End of Poverty, these states are stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of perpetual poorness. it may be the case that there are no resources to begin with, or so hardly any that were once there were depleted. you might consider a desert. people have set up their societies in the middle of a desert where a river once ran, but the river ran dry and after it did, those people are stuck; without the means to survive or flee. this leads me to my third and final characteristic, an almost Platonist like concept of the ability to leave the region. if the place you were born is barren of resources, and you are literally unable to come up with the resources to leave an area, you are living under the poverty line. i use this characteristic to better distinguish wants and needs. if you were born in New York City, and are failing to meet my first measure, and also the second measure, if you are still able to get together enough resources to move somewhere that was more affordable, then you are not living in poverty. if you are unable to come up with enough water and protein to travel across the vast desert to immigrate elsewhere, you are living in poverty.
my measure and all the others are deficient in a similar and profound way: the cyclical nature of poverty, in which ever measure and subsequent definition of the word. i have seen this with my own eyes and have never stumbled across an econometrics examination or qualitative analysis that was able to weigh the variable of hereditary poverty. that is why i came up with my third trait of “poverty;” i have lived in a place where many people live a life of poverty (by many measures). i have seen many of those people stay there and raise their many children there, and, as you might have guessed, those children then stay and do the same. i escaped. my mother (and father, by twisting his arm) found the means to relocate us to a place where there are jobs and opportunity for personal growth. she sought and received an education which would allow her to fund an expensive endeavor such as moving. she had no more opportunity than our old neighbors, in fact less, since she was the only source of income for herself and me, while attending the university, while our neighbors were a working couple with a child. she did have a couple variables that not all people have: perhaps my mother came equipped with more mental capital and will and also cousins who were already here and could spare a room for our little family until we got our feet on the ground. we escaped the cycle and do not live a life of poverty. on the contrary, our old neighbors still live in the same house and live a life of poverty. none of the measures (mine included) can account for this phenomena and are flawed as a result.
if you haven't read any Jeffrey Sachs, i strongly urge you to. he is pretty centered and his economic mindset really makes for interesting analysis of situations. you can find info on the book here.