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Down and out

Down and out: Poverty and exclusion in Australia

Peter Saunders
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  • Book Info
    Down and out
    Book Description:

    This landmark study provides the first comprehensive assessment of the nature and associations between the three main forms of social disadvantage in Australia: poverty, deprivation and social exclusion. Drawing on the author's extensive research expertise and his links with welfare practitioners, it explains the limitations of existing approaches and presents new findings that build on the insights of disadvantaged Australians and views about the essentials of life, providing the basis for a new deprivation-based poverty measure.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-840-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-x)
  2. ONE Introduction and overview
    (pp. 1-16)

    This book is about three of the main forms of social disadvantage – poverty, deprivation and exclusion. It discusses what these terms mean, how we think about them, how we measure them, how they relate to each other and what needs to be done about them. It draws on international (mainly European) ideas and policy debates and although the evidence presented is Australian, the arguments, findings and their interpretation apply more generally.

    Its starting point is poverty, since this is the aspect of disadvantage that has attracted most attention. However, poverty is only one dimension of disadvantage, and deprivation and...

  3. TWO Income poverty
    (pp. 17-42)

    Two of the principal aims of poverty research are to identify who is poor and to quantify the extent of poverty – in total and among specific groups. These tasks are important because they establish the scope of the problem, highlight where action is needed to address it and can be used to assess the impact of those actions. The estimates provide the basis for examining the association between poverty and such factors as age, family structure, labour force status, health or disability status, migrant status and location. These associations point to some of the causes of poverty, as well...

  4. THREE Beyond low income: economic resources, financial hardship and poverty
    (pp. 43-64)

    The poverty line studies described in the previous chapter represent a first step in the process of identifying who is at risk of experiencing poverty. However, they need to be accompanied by other evidence demonstrating that this risk cannot be avoided and translates into an unacceptable standard of living to confirm that poverty exists. This will involve drawing on data that tap more directly into the circumstances of those at risk and interpreting these data in ways that overcome the limitations of income-based studies. Applying this approach will introduce new controversies and potential areas of disagreement over the precise form...

  5. FOUR Experiencing poverty: the voices of poverty and disadvantage
    (pp. 65-82)

    The previous two chapters have examined how income data can be used to estimate poverty (or the risk of poverty) and how those estimates can be refined by drawing on other information about the economic resources available to, and the financial pressures faced by, households with incomes below the poverty line. The approaches described produce fewer poor households but also provide more compelling evidence that poverty exists, and thus provide a sharper focus and contribute to a better understanding of the issue. However, their impact is constrained by the fact that the data used do not relate directly to actual...

  6. FIVE Identifying the essentials of life
    (pp. 83-114)

    The concept of deprivation has exerted a major influence on poverty research since it was first used to identify poverty over three decades ago by Townsend (1979). Since then, the ideas he developed have had a profound and growing impact on how poverty research is conducted, reducing its dependence on the use of poverty lines. The basic ideas captured in the concept and measurement of deprivation have already been outlined in Chapter One. This chapter provides a more thorough discussion of the concept and presents new evidence on a key ingredient of the approach – the identification of what constitutes...

  7. SIX Measuring deprivation
    (pp. 115-152)

    This chapter uses the 26 items that were identified in the previous chapter as being essential by a majority to provide the first comprehensive, national picture of deprivation in Australia. Results are presented and analysed in detail for the 2006 community sample and a selection of findings from the 2006 and 2008 welfare service client samples are also examined. The basic results are presented on a raw (unweighted) basis and after applying population age weights to adjust for the unrepresentative age profile of the community sample. In general, reweighting the data in this way has little impact on the results...

  8. SEVEN A new poverty measure
    (pp. 153-178)

    The previous two chapters have applied the deprivation approach using Australian survey data, identified the essentials of life, examined the deprivation profile, assessed the sensitivity of the findings to changes in the methods used to derive them and illustrated their relevance with an example. This chapter extends earlier work by Saunders and Naidoo (2009) to compare the deprivation estimates with poverty rates estimated from the same data, focusing on how they differ and where they overlap. It then combines information on deprivation and poverty to produce a new poverty measure to complement the existing income-based measures (poverty lines) that were...

  9. EIGHT Defining social exclusion and the social inclusion agenda
    (pp. 179-210)

    Social exclusion has emerged over the last three decades as a major research topic and a new organising theme for social policy. It has influenced how social issues are conceived, debated, researched and addressed, particularly in Europe. Its modern usage began in France in the 1970s to capture the idea that certain marginalised groups face multiple barriers (not just economic) that effectively exclude them from the French social protection system (Peace, 2001; Whiteford, 2001). The fight against exclusion has been at the centre of the EU’s social agenda since the Maastricht Treaty was first signed in 1992 and its significance...

  10. NINE Identifying social exclusion
    (pp. 211-236)

    With interest in social exclusion increasing in Australia and social inclusion emerging as a major focus of social policy, examining the extent of the problem has become increasingly important. Estimating the incidence and severity of exclusion can help to identify high-risk groups and guide where action is needed, what form(s) it should take and allow its effects to be monitored. It is particularly important to highlight instances where exclusion exists among members of the population that do not fall into the conventional categories associated with social disadvantage.

    There can be no presumption that exclusion is concentrated on those with limited...

  11. TEN Conclusions and implications
    (pp. 237-252)

    Social disadvantage has many manifestations and can only be adequately captured using multi-dimensional indicators. This is the central message to emerge from recent research on poverty and disadvantage and has shaped the research reported in previous chapters. Why not dispense with quantification altogether? If the problems are so difficult, yet so fundamental, would it not be better to avoid measurement and focus instead on understanding how examples of disadvantage arise and are perpetuated in specific instances and deal with them in ways that are appropriate to the circumstance? These questions raise important issues about the nature of social science research...