The simplest definition of poverty is having little or no money, but a new report by The Brookings Institution examines the problem beyond the metric of income.
What are the 5 Dimensions of Poverty?
Inspired by the mid-20th century work of British academic and civil servant William Beveridge, the Institution took a close look in their April 2016 report at the nation's poverty in five dimensions:
- Low household income
- Limited education
- Lack of health insurance
- Concentrated spatial poverty
Examining the 5 Dimensions of Poverty
"Poverty as a lived experience is often characterized not just by low income, but by ill health, insecurity, discomfort, isolation, and lack of agency," the study's authors, Richard Reeves, Edward Rodrigue and Elizabeth Kneebone wrote.
Using American Community Survey data for 2014 to look at the general adult population, the authors found that each dimension of poverty affects a range of 11 to 21 percent of people. The breakdown was 21, 15, 16, 19 and 11 percent for the dimensions of low income, lack of education, no health insurance, poor area and jobless family, respectively.
("Jobless family" means no one in the respondent's family is employed, including himself or herself. This factor was designed to take into account the fact that the unemployed, such as stay-at-home parents, aren't necessarily impoverished.)
Nearly half the population faced at least one dimension of poverty, and nearly a quarter faced at least two, with 9 percent and 2 percent facing at least 3 and at least 4 dimensions, respectively, according to the report.
Multidimensional poverty and race
But what was perhaps the most interesting discovery in the report was "marked differences" in multidimensional poverty rates between minorities and whites.
"Most blacks and Hispanics are disadvantaged on at least one dimension; most whites are not," the authors wrote. "Most whites who are disadvantaged on one dimension are not disadvantaged on any others. By contrast, most African Americans and Hispanics who are disadvantaged on one dimension are also disadvantaged on at least one more."
The idea that different aspects of poverty viciously build on each other to the concurrent detriment of those with little to no money is not surprising, but the data that show how that manifests itself in racially disparate ways adds something to the conversation.
Healthify's role in addressing multidimensional poverty is to provide the technology that can efficiently connect vulnerable populations to social programs that can help them achieve good health.
The hope is that Healthify can make progress in reducing the number of people facing poverty, as well as the disparities that exist therein.