The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty
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The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.
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Chapter 12: The ‘Feminisation of Poverty’: A Widespread Phenomenon?

Marcelo Medeiros and Joana Costa


Marcelo Medeiros and Joana Costa In the process of policymaking accurate information about societal trends can be crucial. The choice of best strategies for action may differ according to this information. Data on the ‘feminisation of poverty’ is particularly important because it combines two critical issues: gender inequality and poverty. But the two are not synonymous; gender inequality extends beyond the poor and, by its turn, poverty is not exclusive to females. A flawed diagnosis of the facts may end up misguiding policies and making their results inadequate in both areas. On the one hand, emphasising poverty tends to overshadow the debate on gender inequality and, on the other, putting excessive stress on gender issues may lead to inadequate anti-poverty policies. The question of whether there is a ‘feminisation of poverty’ depends first and foremost on a definition of the term. To seek an answer for this question this chapter discusses the meaning of different concepts of ‘feminisation’, argues in favour of one that can be applied to several dimensions of poverty, including income deprivation, and shows that according to this way of defining the phenomenon, there is no empirical evidence of a feminisation of income poverty in several countries of the world. The numerous meanings of ‘feminisation of poverty’ Different definitions may lead to the observation of different phenomena and therefore have different implications in terms of policymaking. For example, a feminisation of income poverty is likely to imply policies that differ from those designed to face the feminisation...

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