Defining child poverty in South Africa using the socially perceived necessities approach

Helen Barnes and Gemma Wright

in Global Child Poverty and Well-being

Published by Policy Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9781847424822
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447307235 | DOI:
Defining child poverty in South Africa using the socially perceived necessities approach

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  • Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility


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This chapter describes an approach to defining child poverty in South Africa using a socially perceived necessities method which was conceived in Britain in the mid 1980s. This approach, when applied to the measurement of child poverty, involves asking a representative sample of the (usually adult) population to state which of a list of items is essential for children to have an acceptable standard of living. It is then possible to measure in a survey how many children do not have the items defined as essential and can therefore be considered poor. The socially perceived necessities approach is described and a justification for the involvement of children, alongside adults, in defining poverty is put forward. The methodology used to apply this approach in South Africa is detailed. The definition derived from a survey module asking adults for their views on an acceptable standard of living is presented and compared to the views of children derived from focus group work. The chapter concludes with a discussion of some of the methodological issues that arise when applying this approach, including how to reconcile the adult and child definitions and the extent to which children's own circumstances impact on their definition of necessities for all children.

Keywords: poverty; multi-dimensional; child; socially perceived necessities; South Africa

Chapter.  7532 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility

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