The level of income is far from the only dimension of poverty that plays a role in shaping vulnerability to environmental stress. Traditional approaches to poverty, which see it as simply an economic condition (often expressed in relation to living on less than $1 or $2 a day for individuals, or as per capita GNP for nations), are therefore not sufficient in capturing the relationship between poverty and vulnerability to environmental stress, nor will such approaches provide sufficient guidance for vulnerability reduction.

Poverty resists measurement because it is a multifaceted predicament and can thus not be adequately captured by one-dimensional measures based on income or expenditure. Different ways of understanding poverty lead to different ways of dealing with it.