Towards a holistic understanding of poverty: A new multidimensional measure of poverty for Australia

Emily J. Callander*, Deborah J. Schofield, Rupendra N. Shrestha

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


This paper draws upon literature from economics, and the human capital and equity fields in order to present a theoretical framework for a new multidimensional measure of poverty for Australia. Poverty is about having low living standards; but its measurement has traditionally focused only on an individual's income or on other dimensions of living standards that are not appropriate for contemporary Australian society, such as calorie intake. There are two additional capabilities individuals require for adequate living standards: health and education. Each of these is required for basic functioning within modern society, but have traditionally been ignored by measures of poverty. This paper argues that health is a basic capability people need for a fulfilling life, allowing individuals to participate in activities essential in modern society, and that education can also be seen in this light. As such it is vital that health and education be included in measures of poverty. In order to move Australian poverty measurement forward and build upon the work of the past, poverty measurement must move its focus away from only looking at low income, and take a holistic focus on the living standards of individuals by incorporating assessments of health and education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-155
Number of pages15
JournalHealth Sociology Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • education
  • health
  • living standards
  • poverty
  • quality of life
  • sociology


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