Glossary of Poverty-Related Terms
This section provides a glossary of some of the common poverty-related terminology found on this website. For descriptions of poverty relief organizations, see the Poverty Relief Organizations section. For biographies of men and women who have made an impact in fighting poverty, see the Biographies section.
- $1-a-day Poverty Line: The international poverty line for absolute poverty set by the World Bank in 1990, and adjusted for various purchasing power parities. People living at or below this level are said to be in extreme poverty.
- $14.40-a-day Poverty Line: The absolute poverty line sometimes used in industrialized nations instead of the $1/$2-a-day lines used by the World Bank. The line is set at $14.40 to adjust for different standards of living between industrialized and developing nations. However, many nations (such as the U.S.) set their own poverty lines as well.
- $2-a-day Poverty Line: The second international poverty line for poverty set by the World Bank, and adjusted for various purchasing power parities. People living at or below this level are said to be in poverty, though not to the extent of those living under $1 a day.
- Absolute Poverty Line: An absolute poverty defines poverty as the state of living under a certain, pre-determined amount of income or consumption. The most common absolute poverty line is the $1-a-day line.
- Bretton Woods Organization: An organization created as part of the negotiations held from July 1st to July 22nd, 1944 in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference.
- Corruption: When talking about poverty, the term 'corruption' usually refers either to bribes taken by judges, policemen, or other local government officers in developing nations, or to large-scale, deliberate mismanagement of money higher up in the government. Both of these actions take a large economic toll on the poor.
- Cycle of Poverty: A phenomenon where poor families become trapped in poverty for generations. Because they have no access to critical resources, such as education and financial services, subsequent generations are also impoverished.
- Debt Relief: Cancellation of debts owed by developing nations to industrialiazed nations or institutions such as the World Bank, in order to allow the government to shift funds toward social development.
- Decile Dispersion Ratio: Ratio calculated by expressing the amount of income made by the rich as a multiple of the amount of income made by the poor.
- Developing Government: 'Developing government' refers to governments of developing countries. These governments are sometimes not fully functional, are often poor, and can be hard-pressed to tackle issues such as poverty by themselves.
- Developing Nation: A developing nation (sometimes called a Third World country) is a country where human development is lower than elsewhere in the world. Often, these are the nations were poverty occurs. Developing nations are sometimes referred collectively as 'the South,' because many are located in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Diarrhea: Diarrhea is an infectious disease that affects the intestines and can result in dehydration and death. It is especially prevalent among children in developing countries.
- Economy: Term that refers to the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services in a region. Economic growth is essential to alleviating poverty.
- Empowerment: Increasingly, poverty is defined in terms of empowerment, or rather, disempowerment. Often, the poor are too disempowered to rise up above poverty - there is a lack of opportunities and services available to them, and so they remain in poverty.
- FDI: Foreign investment in developing countries.
- Food Security: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, food security exists "when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."
- G8 Summit: International meeting of the most powerful countries in the world where their leaders discuss current global issues.
- GDP: 'Gross Domestic Product' refers to the total value of all goods and services produced by a country's economy over a specified period of time.
- Gender Equality: 'Gender equality' is a hot topic in poverty alleviation right now: people promoting gender equality want society, especially in the field of education, to allow equal opportunities to both men and women. This is often not the case in developing nations.
- Gini Coefficient: Common measure of inequality. The higher the Gini Coefficient, the higher the inequality in the region being measured.
- GNI: 'Gross National Income' refers to the total value of all goods and services produced by a country's economy over a specified period of time, with the addition of any income received from other countries.
- GNP: 'Gross National Product' refers to the total value of all goods and services produced by a country's economy over a specified period of time, with the addition of goods and services produced in other countries but owned by the original country.
- Grand Corruption: Corruption that takes place in higher levels of government, and involves large amounts of money mismanagement - for example, diverting funds from a social program for personal use.
- Grant: A form of monetary aid that is like a 'gift' - it does not need to be repaid.
- HDI: The United Nations Human Development Index is the most common measure of human development, and countries are ranked on it every year in the UNDP's Human Development Report.
- HIPC Inititative: A debt relief program run by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
- HIV/AIDS: A deadly infectious disease that has killed millions across the globe. It has had the largest affect in sub-Saharan Africa, where it has stalled poverty relief and is partially responsible to the continued increase in the poverty rate there.
- HPI: The Human Poverty Index is a measure of human poverty used by the United Nations.
- Industrialized Nation: An industrialized, or developed, nation is a nation with high human development. Industrialized nations generally have almost no one living below $1/$2 a day. The governments in these countries are responsible for funding many poverty relief programs.
- Inequality: When discussing poverty, inequality often refers to the income gap between the rich and poor of society. The greater the gap, the greater the inequality.
- Infectious Disease: A disease caused by a bacteria, virus, or parasite. Infectious diseases kill millions of people, and take their greatest toll in the developing world.
- International Literacy Day: An annual event sponsored by UNESCO that promotes literacy and education around the world.
- Iodine Deficiency: A micronutrient deficiency that can cause brain damage. This can often occur in developing nations where there is not always a source of iodine in the diet.
- Iron Deficiency: Iron deficiency affects billions of people in the developing world to some degree, and can cause stunted growth and other development problems.
- Literacy Initiative for Empowerment: The LIFE initiative is run by UNESCO, and promotes literacy around the world.
- Literacy: The ability to read and write.
- Least Developed Country: Countries classified by the UN as having extremely low human development and economic development.
- Landlocked Developing Country: Developing countries that are particularly disadvantaged because they are landlocked – they have no access to the sea.
- Development Loan: A loan is a form of monetary aid that assumes payback at a later date, often with interest. When loan are made in poverty relief operations, they often have low or no interest.
- Lorenz Curve: A Lorenz Curve is a graphical representation of inequality data, and can be used to find the Gini Coefficient of the data.
- Malaria: Malaria is a tropical disease spread by mosquitoes that, while nonexistent in developed nations, kills over one million people a year in developing nations, and takes a huge toll on economic productivity.
- Malnourishment: Poor nutrition due to insufficient food or diet problems.
- Millennium Development Goals: Set of eight human development goals set by the United Nations in 2000. The goals address address several poverty issues, and are intended to be achieved by 2015.
- Microfinance Institution: An organization - private or public or both - that supplies microfinance services. The first of these insitutions were ACCION in Latin America and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.
- Microcredit:Financial service where small amounts of money (usually around $50-$150) are loaned to poor people for use as capital to start or expand small businesses.
- Microenterprise: Small, often unregistered business often run by a poor individual. These businesses can often benefit immensely from microcredit.
- Microfinance: Financial services - such as loans and savings - directed toward the poor.
- Microinsurance: A microfinance service that allows poor individuals to insure possessions, such as livestock.
- Micronutrient Deficiency: A diet problem caused by a lack of a micronutrient - a substance (for example, iodine) that is required in trace amounts for the body to function properly. Micronutrient deficiencies are common in developing nations.
- Microsaving: A microfinance service that allows impoverished individuals to safeguard money and other valuable items, and even earn interest.
- NGO: A non-governmental organization is a non-profit organization that often conducts humanitarian and development work around the world. NGOs are essential to poverty relief efforts.
- Official Development Aid: Monetary aid given by industrialized countries to developing countries to help with development and poverty alleviation.
- OECD: The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a group of highly developed 'industrialized' nations that focuses on economic issues.
- Oral Rehydration Salts: Medication that can be used to treat diarrhea cases through rehydration.
- 'per-capita': Used to indicate the average amount of something per person. For example, the GDP per capita represents the GDP of a country divided by its population: the amount of the GDP that could be given equally to each person.
- Petty Corruption: Petty corruption refers to small incidences of corruption, often on a local level, by people such as policemen and judges. This type of corruption affects the poor most directly.
- Poverty: The state of living on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank. Poverty can also represent a lack of opportunity and empowerment, and bad quality of life in general. See What is Poverty? for more information.
- Primary Education: Basic education - primary and elementary school.
- Purchasing Power Parity: The true exchange rate of different currencies based on differences in standard of living and overall pricing among different nations.
- Sanitation: Disposal of human waste. Sanitation, clean water, and good hygiene often go together in poverty alleviation/health projects addressing the issue.
- School Payment Program: Programs where students are paid to attend school to keep them from working. This is sometimes required because faimiles are otherwise too poor to send their children to school.
- Seconday Education: High school education.
- Small Island Developing Nation: Developing nations that are limited in economic development by lack of landmass. SIDs are small, island nations with very limited area.
- Starting Capital: Money that is required to start a business. Getting starting capital is often difficult for poor individuals. Supplying starting capital is a specialty of microfinance institutions involved with microcredit.
- Tuberculosis: An infectious diseases that kills millions in developing countries every year.
- Technical Assistance: Technical assistance is usually given to developing nations by organizations that have experience in development issues faced by the nation in question. For example, the World Health Organization, which specializes in health, might give advice and supply advisors to an African country faced with an HIV/AIDS crisis. Many organizations supply technical assistance in their respective fields of expertise.
- Trade: Exchange of goods between people/organizations/countries. Open international trade can lead to economic improvement and can help individuals escape poverty by allowing them to sell goods on international markets.
- Transition Matrix: A chart that allows user to measure movements in and out of poverty over a time period.
- Vitamin A Deficiency: A micronutrient deficiency that can cause blindness that affects millions in developing nations.
- Vulnerability: Vulnerability refers to the economic instability of impoverished or almost-impoverished families. Unexpected sicknesses and other difficulties can be all it takes to drive a family deep into poverty.