Researchers have been grappling with finding an adequate means of defining poverty since the nineteenth century, yet no universal consensus exists today. Much of the debate has been concerned with whether poverty should be defined in absolute or relative terms. Today, most countries use income as a measure of poverty, and the extent of poverty in a country is assessed on the basis of a poverty line, as is the case in Barbados. Human deprivation cannot be accurately portrayed purely by of a lack of financial resources; however, a variety of factors, including unemployment, violations of human rights, increased migration, weakening of family ties, and reduced social and political participation may combine to severely reduce the quality of living conditions for large sectors of Caribbean society. Corin Bailey, Jonathan Lashley and Christine Barrow propose the use of a more comprehensive measure of deprivation, one that takes into consideration the range of resources or assets necessary to maintain an acceptable standard of living. They argue that the absence of critical physical, human, social and environmental assets leaves individuals and groups vulnerable to social exclusion and they offer a framework that provides a unique contemporary approach to the study of poverty in the Caribbean.
Rather than relying solely on statistical data, the authors use qualitative data in the form of testimony from the excluded to allow them to explain, in their own words, the realities of exclusion that they face and the manner in which the absence of the assets described leaves them vulnerable to deprivation. This use of mixed methodology includes a survey of living conditions as well as qualitative participatory poverty assessments designed to adequately capture the experience of exclusion in Barbados and an institutional assessment that seeks to determine what government and civil society organizations have done to reduce poverty. Rethinking Poverty is a refreshingly innovative analysis of poverty in the region.
List of Figures
A Local Approach to Poverty Measurement
Concepts and Context
Social Exclusion in Barbados
Voices of the Poor and Socially Excluded
Appendix: Description of the Interview Process