Abstract Before the financial crisis of mid-1997, estimates of consumption poverty in Indonesia were based on rather modest poverty line thresholds when seen in relation to estimates of capability poverty. The reasons behind this discrepancy are identified and alternative estimates of consumption poverty for the pre-crisis period proposed. During the crisis, the behavior of consumption poverty can be described as transient in nature and is relevant in understanding the notion of vulnerability, that is, the risk that individuals and households can experience temporary episodes of poverty. Vulnerability could have worsened, however, in the absence of government intervention, entailing macroeconomic stabilization measures and social protection initiatives. Based on this experience, a fiscally sustainable social safety net, that is able to reinforce household coping mechanisms and social capital, is recommended as part of the country's medium-term strategy to combat poverty.