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Charles Booth: the examination of poverty.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


Charles Booth's studies of poverty are widely misrepresented in the literature of social policy. His work is commonly bracketed with Rowntree's, but his methods were quite different. His definition of poverty was explicitly relative; he based the description of poverty on class, rather than income. He did not attempt to define need, or to identify subsistence levels of income on the basis of minimum needs; his poverty line was used as an indicator of poverty, not a definition. His approach was to identify the sorts of conditions in which people were poor, and to describe these conditions in a variety of ways. To this end, he used a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods in an attempt to add depth and weight to his descriptions of poverty. He is described by Beatrice Webb, with some justice, as the boldest pioneer ¦ in the methodology of the social sciences of the nineteenth century.


SPICKER, P. 1990. Charles Booth: the examination of poverty. Social policy and administration [online], 24(1), pages 21-38. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 31, 1990
Online Publication Date May 31, 1990
Publication Date May 31, 1990
Deposit Date Oct 8, 2013
Publicly Available Date Oct 8, 2013
Journal Social policy and administration
Print ISSN 0144-5596
Electronic ISSN 1467-9515
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 1
Pages 21-38
Public URL


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