Peter Townsend (sociologist)

Peter Townsend (sociologist)

Peter Brereton Townsend (born 6 April 1928) is a British sociologist. He is presently Professor of International Social Policy at the London School of Economics. He is also Emeritus Professor of Social Policy in the University of Bristol. He has written widely of the economics of poverty and was an early member of the Child Poverty Action Group. His partner (since 1980) is the Labour peer (and former Bristol East MP), Jean Corston. He is considered by some to have had a key influence in the present Labour administration's interest in alleviating poverty.

Key works

Townsend, Peter. 1979. 'Poverty in the United Kingdom' Allen Lane: London

Definition of relative poverty

"Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the type of diet, participation in the activities and the have the living conditions and the amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved in the societies to which they belong. Their resources are so seriously below those commanded by the average family that they are in effect excluded from the ordinary living patterns, customs, and activities." (Townsend, 1979, page 31)

Townsend inefficiency

Townsend inefficiency is a possible property of monetary exchange. Rather than evaluating the utility he generated in production, one of the parties is evaluating the value of the money he gets in the transaction. [ [] Accessed June 18, 2008.] In other words, a worker may only be looking at his paycheck instead of the amount of labor he promises to perform to get that paycheck. This sets up an inefficienty in the monetary exchange.

Papers and Work

A partial list is to be found at []


Further reading

*Tom Clark, "Making Poverty History", Interview in Guardian Society, 2 April 2008

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