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Tatjana Fischer and Karl Martin Born

Abstract

Poverty, material deprivation and marginalization are widespread phenomena in rural areas and since the 1980s, the subject of geographical research. In this paper, we combine the (spatial-related) aspects of rural poverty and quality of life when the perception and evaluation of poverty by local decision makers (mayors) is linked to their efforts to keep the municipality vital. The specific focus on the “inner view” on poverty illustrates the complexity of the issue: It is not only the well-known difficulty to identify the extent of rural poverty and deprivation in rural municipalities as statistical data and the “hiddenness” of poor people obstruct an objective view on it but also the individual perception of decision makers. The results from 40 mayors of structurally very weak (rural) municipalities in Austria reveals limitations of political dealings with poverty and marginalization and sets the context for a reinterpretation of public services on the background of the politically much favored civic engagement.