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The oldest Montreal study of relative poverty

In 1897, Herbet Brown Ames published the first known studies of poverty in Canada. The study looked at the present day Griffintown neighborhood of Montreal. In addition to chapters on composition of family, homes, rental market, density and crowding, religions and deathrates, Ames conducted an analysis of income poverty. His work bears some resemblance to the later developed low income lines we study today.

We have already learned that there are 7671 families resident within ‘the city below the hill’. As near as can be ascertained these families receive, each week, an aggregate amount of not less than eight-five thousand dollars. This means eleven dollars per week to each family. We have also found that these families include 37,652 persons. This gives, on average, an allowance of two dollars and a quarter per week to each individual. Eleven dollars per family, two and a quarter dollars per individual, these then are the standards of average living in ‘the city below the hill’. (p. 32.)

Ames, H. B. (1897). The city below the hill: A sociological study of a portion of the city of Montreal, Canada. Bishop Engraving and Printing.

How do, and should we, measure poverty?

I recently came across this story from the Columbia School of Social Work. Three notable academics address the topic of how to best measure poverty. The analysis is US-centric but includes some valuable content on comparing measures and how municipalities can use poverty measures to inform policy. The story with audio files can be found here.


recent global poverty stories in the Economist

At least three stories have been published in the Economist on the reduction in global poverty. Relates to SWRK 626 Week 3 discussion.

African child mortality: The best story in development

 Poverty: Not always with us

The world’s next great leap forward: Towards the end of poverty


Poverty 101: Teaching about poverty and inequality

I was lucky to participate in the first Institute for Research on Poverty Workshop on Poverty 101 this past summer in Madison, Wisconsin. The gathering featured a number of world-class speakers presenting the latest information on understanding poverty. Participants were from a diverse range of fields. I brought back a number of new ideas and connections to inform both my research and teaching. Announcement is below

Poverty 101

Materials from the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP)’s Poverty 101 workshop, held in June 2013, are now available here. The site provides cutting-edge teaching resources for college-level instructors, including slide presentations on the concept of poverty, its causes, policy responses, and more!

Go here for resources

SWRK 626 Week 2 Memo Questions


Week 2

1. Haughton and Haughton describe the differences between income and expenditures for measuring well-being. In your view is income or expenditure a better indicator of well-being? See the contrast on Table 10.1. Explain with 2-3 points articulating your rationale.
2. According to Haughton and Haughton p. 94,    “[relative measures of poverty] can be helpful in identifying poor areas or poor subgroups in a society… but does not serve if the purpose is to measure the effectiveness of the interventions.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain your rationale.
3. According to Goodman-Draper, in native communities there was a “dissolution of the traditional, collectivist Native way of life” towards “private property, individualism, and the destruction of collectivism” p. 45. Is there any way this could also be interpretted as “development”? Why or why not?
4. Fortin et al show massive differences in wage changes for males and females between 1980 to 2005 (Figure 2).  Could you argue that women have experienced more “development” over the last 30 years than men? Why or why not?
5. Haveman outlines several different poverty measurements – absolute (income), relative (income), consumption, capability, asset, subjective, multidimensional, and social exclusion. Based on your experience and the information provided in the chapter, assuming you are the policy czar of Quebec, which one poverty measure would you choose? Explain with 3-4 points. Alternatively, assume you ere the policy czar of a developing country, which one poverty measure would you choose? Explain with 3-4 points.

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