The definitions of poverty used are important for the following reasons:-
- How poverty is defined will affect who will be counted as poor
- Who is counted determines the total number seen in poverty and therefore, how many will be the object of social policy and laws.
- The definition of poverty will have implications for public expenditure and the types of poverty programme adopted by any government.
- Whether the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing or decreasing is one way in which voters may choose to measure the success of any government.
In 1997 Peter Townsend a British Sociologist and world expert on poverty, noted that in the 1980s and 1990s successive British Prime Ministers and secretaries of state argued that ‘attempts to define poverty in the UK were mainly politically inspired, and so we have no officially endorsed standards or definitions of poverty at all'
Townsend Peter (1997) Poverty and Policy Sociology Review September 15-19