Most countries in the world measure their poverty using an absolute threshold, or in other words, a fixed standard of what households should be able to count on in order to meet their basic needs. A few countries, however, have chosen to measure their poverty using a relative threshold, that is, a cutoff point in relation to the overall distribution of income or consumption in a country.
The chart above shows the differences between relative and absolute poverty headcount ratios for countries that have measured both. You can select other countries from the drop down list, but for example, you can see that Romania switched from measuring poverty in absolute terms to measuring poverty in relative terms in 2006. Absolute poverty headcount ratios steadily declined from 35.9% in 2000 to 13.8% in 2006. However, by relative measures, the national poverty headcount ratio in 2006 was 24.8%. This does not mean that poverty bumped up in 2006. These two numbers are simply not comparable, but what exactly do they both mean?