Material deprivation in Europe linked to inequality

Why do European countries differ from one another much more on measures of  material deprivation than on measures of income poverty? The reasons for this mismatch have been explored by researchers working on an EU-funded project.

Material deprivation plays a key role in defining the poverty and social exclusion goal of the Europe 2020 strategy, which is to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty by 20 million.

Key findings

  • Differences in material deprivation are better explained by reference to differences in absolute income poverty than by differences in relative income poverty.
  • Material deprivation is found to be especially prevalent in countries that have a high degree of social stratification. People with extremely low income in countries with a rather unequal economic structure suffer disproportionate levels of material deprivation – that is, more than would be predicted on measures of income alone.
  • Since the most materially deprived households are located especially in the central and eastern European countries, the European Structural Fund has an important role to play in meeting the EU2020 poverty targets.

Source: Sabine Israel and Dorothee Spannagel, Material Deprivation: An Analysis of Crosscountry Differences and European Convergence, Combating Poverty in Europe project (European Commission)

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