The "disadvantaged" is a generic term for individuals or groups of people who:
- Face special problems such as physical or mental disability
- Lack money or economic support
- Are seen as inferior by higher, more influential social groups.
- Are politically deemed to be without sufficient power or other means of influence
In common usage "the disadvantaged" is a generic term for those "from lower-income backgrounds" or "the Disadvantaged Poor". The "economically disadvantaged" is a term used by government institutions in for example allocating free school meals to "a student who is a member of a household that meets the income eligibility guidelines for free or reduced-price meals (less than or equal to 185% of Federal Poverty Guidelines)" or business grants.
The "disadvantaged" is often applied in a third world context and typically relate to women with reduced "upward mobility" suffering social exclusion and having limited access to natural resources and economic opportunities. They are often landless or marginal farmers operating on the most unproductive land. Statistically a person born into poverty is likely to die there and have children who live powerless as well.
According to Paul Krugman in an October 2002 article titled "about the distribution of wealth", there is even more of a divide between the classes today than in the 1920s, meaning that the disadvantaged are becoming more economically disadvantaged. The current economy in the United States is one that has divided the rich and the poor, with the rich taking the bulk of the gains in productivity of the last several decades. The majority of those termed as disadvantaged live in the developing world with no or insufficient readily available running water, electricity or sanitation.
Many disadvantaged groups are also not recognized as disadvantaged, thus giving a disadvantage when they are denied access for tools of self-sufficiency. One example is gender. Such groups are low Socio-economic status and racialized males, especially non-custodial fathers, as well as women choosing traditional gender roles.
Many governments use Disadvantaged area as a designation for various "problem" areas. In the UK "disadvantaged area" is a term used for an area where there is a need "to stimulate the physical, economic and social regeneration" by attracting development and encouraging the purchase of residential and commercial properties in special provisions for Stamp Tax relief and for areas where health is an issue. In the United States The "Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act" allowed qualifying hospitals to employ temporary foreign workers as Registered Nurses (RNs).
- Kingdom of Nepal: Economic and Social Inclusion of the Disadvantaged Poor through Livelihood Enhancement with Micro-irrigation (Financed by the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund), March 2006 
- Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, "Economically Disadvantaged Status Collection and Reporting", 
- New York Times, "the distribution of wealth"
- The Stamp Duty (Disadvantaged Areas) Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/3747)
- UK department of Health Press Release, "Health trainers for disadvantaged areas", Published, Thursday 11 August 2005, Reference number: 2005/0285
- The Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999 (NRDAA)