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Revisiting the 'feminisation of poverty' and the UNDP gender indices: what case for a gendered poverty index?

By Sylvia Chant


Women’s purportedly disproportionate and rising share of poverty - as encapsulated in the widely popularised term the ‘feminisation of poverty’ – has conferred unprecedented prominence upon gender in poverty analysis and policy. However, the ‘feminisation of poverty’ is often used in a cursory and unsubstantiated manner and, in its implicit privileging of income, does not necessarily highlight aspects of poverty which are most relevant to poor women at the grassroots. Although the UNDP’s gender indices go some way to reflecting broader aspects of gendered poverty, particularly in respect of capabilities and opportunities, there is scope for improvement. In the interests of working towards gender indices which are more responsive to crucial gender gaps in poverty (understood not only as income deficiency, but in a more multidimensional fashion, and which give weight to the onus of dealing with poverty), the main aims of this paper are three-fold. The first is to draw attention to existing conceptual and methodological weaknesses with the ‘feminisation of poverty’. The second is to offer some thoughts on how the ‘feminisation of poverty’ could be re-cast to more effectively capture trends in gendered privation among the poor. The third is to propose directions for the kinds of data and indicators which might be incorporated within the GDI or GEM, or used in the creation of a Gendered Poverty Index (GPI)

Topics: HQ The family. Marriage. Woman, HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Publisher: LSE Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science
Year: 2006
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Provided by: LSE Research Online
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