This article critically examines the existing conceptualizations of and explanations for the socioeconomic behaviour of poor households in order to lay the foundations of a new model designed to extend the existing resource‐based approach to livelihoods. The proposed model groups ‘household responses to poverty’ into four key types: income generation, income allocation, consumption and investment. In explaining household responses and their poverty outcomes, it focuses on the role of different resources beyond income (e.g. social capital), along with the wider structural forces and household characteristics that influence the availability and benefit delivery capacity of these resources. The new model is shown to provide a theoretically more sophisticated framework with greater explanatory power and empirical applicability.