Where are the poor in Bolivia?

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Two of the Sustainable Development Goals recently agreed by all the member states of United Nations are to reduce poverty and to reduce inequality, and for those goals to be realized, the incomes of the poorest 40% of the population have to increase. Designing policies to reduce poverty and inequality at the very least requires us to know where to find the target population. In this blog I will argue that they are probably not where you think they would be. Read More »

Why is it important to cooperate with Middle Income Countries?

Cecilia JuambeltzBy Cecilia Juambeltz*

In the field of international cooperation, particularly in development cooperation, much is said of High, Middle and Low Income Countries. This characterization may only seem as a way of ordering these countries. But in practice it has important consequences, as it defines the type of aid these countries receive. Donor countries base on these categories to define their aid strategies.

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Measuring Poverty Post-2015: Looking Beyond Income

Adanna Chukwuma

Despite the progress the world has made towards eliminating extreme poverty, one in five people on the planet are still unable to provide for their most basic needs. A report by the High Level Panel—a 27 member group advising the United Nations on a global development framework beyond the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—on the post-2015 development addresses this unacceptable statistic by placing the eradication of poverty on the global agenda.  The question that begs answering: ‘What and whose poverty?

Pause for a moment and picture Aisha: She is a young widow who lives in rural northern Nigeria.  She has five children, but cannot afford to send them to school. They live in a thatch-roofed wooden hut, and the closest source of potable water is 50 km away. Aisha earns an average of $2 a day. Would you describe Aisha as poor and why is this important? On the national and global scale, two reasons immediately come to mind. The adopted measure of poverty will guide who is targeted with scarce development resources and how we assess meeting national and global poverty goals. In addition, measures can be powerful drivers of change along the direction of whatever is assessed. Read More »

Guest Roast: Building an inclusive model around extractive industries in Peru

Photo - Ricardo Morel_2By Ricardo Morel Berendson

The mining boom in Peru during the 1990s attracted private investment that led to current economic growth. However, this did not translate into sustainable development of the mining activities. The government has been absent in remote mining areas and, thus, corporations have been targeted as being responsible for attending to local communities’ demands and providing assistance. As a result, mining companies developed only short-term and interest-driven ‘socially responsible’ plans to continue operating. Not surprisingly, social conflict has been especially prevalent in the field of extractive industries. A shift from an extractive model to a more inclusive, participatory one—where governments and private companies work together with local communities—could create a virtuous circle of sustainable social development.

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Guest Roast: Good Governance and Development – Which causes which?

By Edvin Arnby Machata

The international development community has for almost two decades focused on improving governance as a strategic priority for aiding economic growth. This article points to the historical record and argues that 1) growth does not require good governance, 2) good governance and representative institutions are products of economic development – not the other way around, and that 3) the configuration of national institutions determine whether a political order will produce developmental outcomes or not.

‘Good governance’ has been a mainstay component in most donor-funded development programmes during the last two decades. What exactly constitutes good governance is empirically problematic, but while implementations vary, demands for good governance generally include provisions to minimize graft and increase respect for human rights.

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Opinion: Why happiness does not matter for the problem of poverty.

As shown in our post “Is there more to life than money? Mapping happiness of people and planet”, several attempts have been made to measure happiness and wellbeing globally. However, consensus proved elusive since different studies brought very diverse results. That is because happiness is a very hard thing to define – if it had a clear, objective definition, our lives would be a lot easier, wouldn’t they? Still, there are several working definitions, and most of them can be grouped in either of the following two categories. On one hand, there is a happiness that relates to one’s satisfaction with their lives. That often involves a feeling of having achieved one’s goals in life, having an option not to work in an extremely degrading job, having good relationships, etc. On the other hand, there is a more emotional happiness. That is much more momentary, it is the “state of mind of feeling good”. According to the latter definition, one’s happiness would be measured by how often, how intensely, and for how long one “feels good”.  Read More »

Graphics: Inheriting Poverty – Learned Helplessness and Empowerment in Development

All this month Development Roast has looked at different psychological issues involved in poverty. Today we ask: Does a population’s mentality affect a nation’s development? More specifically, is it possible that when many inhabitants of a country are children of multiple generations of poverty that they can suffer from what could be described as “learned helplessness”, which, as the name suggests, is a feeling of utter disempowerment and uselessness (see graphic). 

This idea was first outlined by American educator and author Ruby Payne in her 2005 book “A framework for understanding poverty”. From her studies of the Urban American class system she concludes that one aspect of generational poverty is a learned helplessness that is passed down from parents to children. This mental attitude means that, unlike the middle and upper classes, many poor people do not foresee a future that is free of poverty and therefore do not have the motivation to even try to escape it. Read More »

Guest Roast: Is Poverty a State of Mind?

By Erin Taylor

What is the psychology of poverty? This question has been a contentious one in anthropology, particularly during the last half a century. In La Vida (1966), a study of poor Puerto Rican families, Oscar Lewis argued that poverty produces certain psychological traits and social behaviours that become enculturated. His ideas caused an uproar because they were widely interpreted to imply that so-called poor people are not capable of escaping poverty. Critics lamented that his book was being misappropriated by the U.S. Government to implement paternalistic, “blame the victim” policies among poor African-American communities that stripped them of their agency, treating them like hopeless cases that needed to be disciplined rather than assisted.

Since then, a plethora of research in poor communities around the world has overturned the idea of a global culture of poverty. Read More »

There are no country-bumpkin economists: A problem for economic research institutes

Since entering the world of economics a short while ago I have repeatedly been surprised by some major development institutions’ lack of regard for the country-side and rural activities. In the 2009 the World Development Report the World Bank called on an increase in urbanization, and therefore a reduction in rural employment, as “essential for economic success.” This development policy was adopted by both the World Bank and a number of senior economists after seeing the positive effects that industrialization has had in North America, Western Europe and Northeastern Asia.  One underlying view behind this popular urbanization theory is that the countryside is a breeding ground for poverty, which can only be relieved with mass migration to cities where “proper” economic activities in the service and business sectors can be undertaken.

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Theory Bites: Development, Underdevelopment and Dependency

The contemporary common language of development divides the world between developed and underdeveloped countries. This common-sensical classification also guides us to think of the two groups as rich and poor. Or even further, that the developed world, despite its imperfections, is “fine” and its people are happy—they represent the way human society should generally be—while the underdeveloped, for whichever reason, has just fallen behind—its people suffer and are not an example of what we’d like to see for humanity. The assumption is that everyone would prefer to live in a city, drive their car to work, and enjoy air conditioning and washing machines, since humans can and should “achieve” much more than washing their clothes by hand or farming for their own survival.

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