Can Social Exclusion Provide a New Framework for Measuring Poverty?

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This paper examines how the concept of social exclusion has evolved in the academic and policy debate in Australia in the last five years or so. It does not attempt to do this comprehensively, but illustrates some of the most important developments, in the process reflecting on some of the issues raised in earlier Australian contribution to the social exclusion literature. The paper is organised around three principal themes: concepts; measurement; and policy. One of the most attractive features of social exclusion is that it broadens the conventional framework that identifies poverty as a lack of resources relative to needs. In this respect, exclusion can be seen as extending other attempts to broader the resource notion of income poverty, specifically those associated with Townsend’s notion of relative deprivation Sen’s more recent ideas of functioning and capability. A range of issues raised in recent debate over the measurement of poverty and in related developments are then reviewed to illustrate the potential advantages of adopting a framework focused around the idea of social exclusion and how different dimensions of exclusion can be identified and quantified. Finally, evidence and experience from the UK and EC are used to show how an exclusion approach can help to promote, not replace, the need for additional work on poverty as conventionally defined and analysed. The paper concludes by arguing that researchers need to think more strategically about how research on exclusion and poverty can exert influence on those setting the policy agenda.
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Saunders, Peter
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