The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Poverty Lines

  • Martin Ravallion
Reference work entry


The article provides welfare-economic definitions of poverty lines and critically assesses the main methods of setting poverty lines found in practice. These can be interpreted as ways of expanding the information set used in applied work to address some long-standing problems in measuring welfare. Objective methods draw on information from outside economics on the commodities needed for normative activity levels. Subjective methods extend the information base by drawing on selfreported perceptions of consumption adequacy, allowing estimation of an endogenous social subjective poverty line.


Consumers’ expenditure Cost-of-basic-needs poverty measure Equivalent income functions Food-energy-intake poverty measure Objective poverty lines Poverty Poverty lines Relative income Relative poverty line Rowntree, B. Self-assessed welfare Social subjective poverty line Subjective poverty lines Utility Welfare economics Well-being 

JEL Classifications

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Atkinson, A. 1987. On the measurement of poverty. Econometrica 55: 749–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Blackorby, C., and D. Donaldson. 1987. Welfare ratios and distributionally sensitive cost-benefit analysis. Journal of Public Economics 34: 265–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Browning, M. 1992. Children and household economic behavior. Journal of Economic Literature 30: 1434–1475.Google Scholar
  4. Citro, C., and R. Michael. 1995. Measuring poverty: A new approach. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dandekar, V., and N. Rath. 1971. Poverty in India. Pune: Indian School of Political Economy.Google Scholar
  6. Danziger, S., J. van der Gaag, E. Smolensky, and M. Taussig. 1984. The direct measurement of welfare levels: How much does it take to make ends meet. Review of Economics and Statistics 66: 500–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deaton, A., and J. Muellbauer. 1980. Economics and consumer behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Easterlin, R. 1995. Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 27: 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Greer, J., and E. Thorbecke. 1986. A methodology for measuring food poverty applied to Kenya. Journal of Development Economics 24: 59–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Groedhart, T., V. Halberstadt, A. Kapteyn, and B. van Praag. 1977. The poverty line: Concept and measurement. Journal of Human Resources 12: 503–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kapteyn, A. 1994. The measurement of household cost functions: Revealed preference versus subjective measures. Journal of Population Economics 7: 333–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kapteyn, A., P. Kooreman, and R. Willemse. 1988. Some methodological issues in the implementation of subjective poverty definitions. Journal of Human Resources 23: 222–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Orshansky, M. 1963. Children of the poor. Social Security Bulletin 26: 3–29.Google Scholar
  14. Osmani, S. 1982. Economic inequality and group welfare. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Oswald, A. 1997. Happiness and economic performance. Economic Journal 107: 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Paul, S. 1989. A model of constructing the poverty line. Journal of Development Economics 30: 129–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Pollak, R. 1991. Welfare comparisons and situation comparisons. Journal of Econometrics 50: 31–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pollak, R., and T. Wales. 1979. Welfare comparison and equivalence scale. American Economic Review 69: 216–221.Google Scholar
  19. Pradhan, M., and M. Ravallion. 2000. Measuring poverty using qualitative perceptions of consumption adequacy. Review of Economics and Statistics 82: 462–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ravallion, M. 1994. Poverty comparisons. Chur: Harwood Academic Press.Google Scholar
  21. Ravallion, M. 1998. Poverty lines in theory and practice. Living Standards Measurement Study Working Paper No. 133. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  22. Ravallion, M., and B. Bidani. 1994. How robust is a poverty profile? World Bank Economic Review 8: 75–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ravallion, M., and M. Lokshin. 2002. Self-rated economic welfare in Russia. European Economic Review 46: 1453–1473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ravallion, M., and M. Lokshin. 2005. Who cares about relative deprivation? policy research working paper 3782. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.Google Scholar
  25. Ravallion, M., and M. Lokshin. 2006. Testing poverty lines. Review of Income and Wealth 52: 399–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ravallion, M., and B. Sen. 1996. When method matters: Monitoring poverty in Bangladesh. Economic Development and Cultural Change 44: 761–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Runciman, W. 1966. Relative deprivation and social justice. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  28. Rowntree, B. 1901. Poverty: A study of town life. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Samuelson, P. 1938. A note on the pure theory of consumer behaviour. Economica 5: 61–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Scitovsky, T. 1978. The joyless economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Sen, A. 1983. Poor, relatively speaking. Oxford Economic Papers 35: 153–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sen, A. 1985. Commodities and capabilities. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  33. Sen, A. 1992. Inequality re-examined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Van Praag, B. 1968. Individual welfare functions and consumer behavior. Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
  35. Varian, H. 1978. Microeconomic analysis. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  36. WHO (World Health Organization). 1985. Energy and protein Requirements, Technical Report Series 724. Geneva: WHO.Google Scholar
  37. Wodon, Q. 1997. Food energy intake and cost of basic needs: Measuring poverty in Bangladesh. Journal of Development Studies 34: 66–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Ravallion
    • 1
  1. 1.