A presentation on poverty measurement in Sweden was made by Björn Halleröd, University of Gothenburg, at the Second Peter Townsend Memorial Conference, Measuring Poverty: The State of the Art, in 2011.

In 1992, Halleröd undertook a study looking at which aspects of Swedish standards of living were seen as necessities and those who could not afford these items. The table below gives a summary of the findings (final sample size 793 persons). 

Items seen as a necessity and lack of those items, Sweden 1992

Item Necessary, should be able to afford Would like to have but can't afford
% %
Medical treatment and medicine if necessary 99.2 0.5
Examination by dental surgeon once a year 96.5 1.6
Vacuum cleaner 96.1 0.6
Glasses, change of glasses if necessary 96.0 2.2
Telephone 95.6 0.3
Householders’ comprehensive insurance 95.6 0.9
A hot meal each day 95.2 0.9
Washing machine 92.1 2.6
Freezer 90.2 2.0
Public transport for one’s needs 87.9 3.7
Modern dwelling (bath/shower, WC, central heating, stove and refrigerator) 84.4 1.4
Self-contained accommodation 81.5 1.6
Not more than two persons in each bedroom 76.7 3.2
A hobby or leisure activity 73.6 5.6
New, not second-hand clothes 73.5 6.5
TV 70.2 0.8
Presents for friends and family at least once a year 69.5 1.3
Daily paper 65.2 5.7
A hair cut every third month 63.2 3.7
A holiday away from home for one week a year, not with relatives or friends 54.5 15.1
Car 47.3 5.9
Balcony or garden 47.4 4.3
Celebrations on special occasions 43.9 4.8
A ‘best outfit’ for special occasions 43.5 3.7
Save at least 500SEK each month 29.4 29.8
A special meal once a week 24.6 5.8
Friends and family round for a meal once a month 23.1 12.1
Stereo equipment 23.1 4.0
Private pension insurance 22.2 28.1
A night out once a fortnight 17.9 14.6
Clothes that in some degree correspond with fashion 15.4 3.9
Go to a theatre, cinema or concert at least once a month 12.9 19.0
Dishwasher 12.0 11.2
Access to summer cottage 10.8 15.0
Video 6.6 6.7
Microwave oven 6.2 10.1

Source: Björn Halleröd (1994) A New Approach to the Direct Consensual Measurement of Poverty.

From this data set, Halleröd developed the Proportional Deprivation Index (PDI). In the consensual method as developed by Mack and Lansley (see ‘How poor is too poor? Defining poverty’), only items which more than 50 per cent of the population identified as necessities are used as deprivation indicators, what Halleröd calls a Majority Needs Index (MNI). In the PDI all items from the preliminary list are included, but each item is given a weight that is the proportion of the population identifying it as a necessity. Halleröd compared the results using an MNI with those using a PDI index and found a high level of consistency between the two approaches, both between the two measures and between the measures and other indicators of material hardship and income.

See also:

Halleröd, B. (1994) A New Approach to the Direct Consensual Measurement of Poverty, Social Policy Research Centre Discussion Paper No. 50.

Comparisons between Sweden, Britain and Bangladesh can be found in ‘Consensual poverty in Britain, Sweden and Bangladesh: a comparative study’, a paper by A.I. Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, Professor of Sociology at the University of Dhaka.

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