RECONSIDERATIONS OF THE APPROACH IN CONVENTIONAL POVERTY STUDIES: A FEMINIST PERSPECTIVE
Annie Lee(Assistant Research Fellow, Sun Yat-San Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy, Academia Sinica)
The main argument in this paper is that the conventional studies of poverty focusing on the resources of collective units have the effect of obscuring gender differences in the causes, extent and experience of poverty. In the first part of this paper, the author concludes three main reasons why researchers have concentrated on families and households rather than on individuals. First, based on the assumption of equal intra-household resources shared, it is argued that to measure individual income would vastly overestimate the extent of poverty. Secondly, many of the items which contribute to any individual’s standard of living are items of joint consumption. Therefore, attempts to assign these items of joint consumption to individuals would be meaningless. Thirdly, sharing a home is assumed to result in proportionately lower levels of need. These assumed “economies of scale” are reflected in many benefit scale rates.
In the second part, the author indicates that the conventional poverty studies have largely ignored the distribution of resources and needs within the units measured, and the particular economic circumstances of women are therefore obscured in several ways. First, the burden of poverty falls mainly upon women. Secondly, that most families with the income just above the poverty line are able to escape from poverty is resulted from women’s self pauperisation. Thirdly, the assumption of women’s financial dependence on men is not only inaccurate but is actually damaging to women. Fourthly, the incorporation into relative definitions of poverty of important social dimensions such as powerlessness and the value of time would enlarge the economic position gap between men and women.
feminisation of poverty, self pauperisation, compulsory altruism, pin money