More than one quarter of Northern Ireland households live in poverty, according to a report by university researchers.
The research measured poverty in terms of low income
The report, entitled Bare Necessities, is due to be published by think tank Democratic Dialogue on Monday.
It found that more than one third of all children in the province live below the poverty line.
The findings suggest a "scientific" measure of poverty and social exclusion in Northern Ireland for the first time.
It also claims that poverty in Northern Ireland is worse than either the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain, which are two of the most unequal societies in Europe.
The research, directed by professors at both the University of Ulster and Queen's University, Belfast, is based on a representative sample of more than 3,100 people across Northern Ireland surveyed between October 2002 and January 2003.
37.4% of NI children are growing up in poor households
67% of lone parents are in poverty
29% of women but only 25% of men are in poor households
56% of households containing one or more disabled people are in poverty
Catholics are 1.4 times as likely as Protestants to live in poor households
The richest 40% of households together possess 67% of the total household income in Northern Ireland
The poorest 40% of households have 17% of total household income
The research measured poverty in terms of both low income and inability to afford things or activities most people regard as necessities of life.
Examples of this included "new, not-second hand clothes", "attending weddings, funerals or similar occasions" and "enough money to pay heating, electricity and telephone bills on time".
The research found that all sections of the community agree on what the bare necessities of life are.
Poor households were found to be those with incomes about half the average and lacking three or more necessities.
The authors conclude that "Northern Ireland is one of the most unequal societies in the developed world" and they throw up a challenge to the region's politicians and policy-makers.
"While the divisions around religion, national identity and political preference dominate all discussions in the media, in local council chambers and in the assembly, this study has turned the spotlight to other equally important but less visible divisions of class, gender, age and disability.
"The challenge for Northern Ireland, as a whole, and local politicians, in particular, is how to reduce these deep fractures of inequality and create a more just society."
The reduction of poverty and inequality is, they say, "ultimately a matter of political will".
The Bare Necessities report was funded by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, the Department of Finance and Personnel, and the Treasury's evidence-based policy fund.