chapter  5
Vulnerability to What? Multidimensional Poverty in Melanesia
ByMatthew Clarke, Simon Feeny, Lachlan McDonald
Pages 24

Defining poverty as a lack of income is intuitively attractive and dates back to the earliest work on poverty in England during the nineteenth century (see Booth, 1887; Rowntree, 1902). From an individual’s experience, income affords us the freedom to purchase our basic needs and many of our desired wants. Further, having money facilitates choices about the things we desire (whether they are good or bad for us). In economic terms, our utility (or happiness) increases as consumption increases by the simple fact that purchasing a particular commodity reveals our preference (belief) that this commodity will increase our utility. Thus the more we purchase, the greater our utility. As having unlimited desires is said to be a human characteristic, an increase in income therefore increases our ability to maximize our utility. Conversely, having less money reduces our ability to consume and lowers our utility. At the extreme, an income below a certain level means that even the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing cannot be adequately met. Then an individual, or household, can be said to be experiencing poverty.