Policy Seminar

Why Poverty Persists

May 30, 2012 - 04:15 pm to 05:45 pm EDT

Poverty Dynamics in Asia & Africa

Why are some people trapped in chronic poverty, while others are able to escape it? This policy seminar will provide an overview of the major findings and policy recommendations from a recently published book on poverty dynamics in Asia and Africa, and present two country studies (from Bangladesh and Ethiopia) that are included in the book.* Using panel surveys from six Asian and African countries, the presentation will analyze what traps people in chronic poverty, as well as what helps them escape it. The distinguishing feature of these studies, which were commissioned by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), is that they span longer periods or have more survey waves than most developing country panels. Three of the panels are part of IFPRI’s Pathways from Poverty research program, which was CPRC’s partner in this effort. The studies (from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Africa and Vietnam) show that the processes that enable people to escape chronic poverty unfold gradually, and often are interrupted by short-term setbacks. In addition, paradoxically, the factors resulting in improvements for some, can cause further decline for others. Across all countries, lack of education and assets are crucial maintainers of chronic poverty.

The two country presentations will illustrate methods that can be used for analyzing poverty dynamics using two 10-year panel studies. The presentations will identify the factors that cause people and households in the two countries to fall into chronic poverty, and the factors that allow them to break free from it. The seminar will explore policies that can be implemented to promote escape from chronic poverty, while preventing descent into chronic poverty, highlighting the distinction between measures to improve returns to the chronic poor’s existing endowments, and those that enhance their asset base. It will be argued that reducing chronic poverty requires a transformative approach to development in which equitable access to employment, broad-based investments in human capital, and effective social protection all have central roles.