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Historically, poverty research has followed three major streams. The positivist approach is reductionist and focuses on quantitative data as opposed to focusing on qualitative context. This has been the primary economic approach in the United States and in the international economic organizations financed by the United States. The second approach is more qualitative and conceptual, and typically housed within the fields of sociology and anthropology. The third approach is the capabilities approach pioneered by Amartya Sen.

Positivist Approach

Measurement of income is the major focus of the positivist approach in studying poverty. Sometimes presented under the rubric of scientific objectivity, this mind-set has laid the foundation of poverty research in the United States. During the post-Depression era, and in later studies on the effects of New Deal ...

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