Disabled people, minority ethnic groups, lone parents and older people who suffer from high levels of poverty but do not necessarily live in the poorest communities can miss out on help.
The research is published today in a report by Heriot-Watt University for the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
It found that some groups, such as migrants, who may face financial and social exclusion due to racism, often live in poor-quality housing, but not necessarily in the most economically deprived areas.
It also found that where groups do live in the poorest areas, they do not always benefit from place-based policies because the reasons for their poverty may differ from those around them.
For example, a disabled person may be excluded from the labour market because they need support with transport.
Commenting on the report, commissioner Kaliani Lyle said: “Much of the government’s strategy to tackle the scourge of poverty in Scotland is a concentration on the poorest 15 per cent of areas.
“Our research shows that many groups may experience high levels of poverty but won’t necessarily benefit from the government’s approach because there is no ‘flex’ built in to accommodate their needs.”
Ms Lyle added: “What we need is a more nuanced approach which takes into account the fact that some of our poorest people don’t live in our poorest areas.”