Max Roser, who created and maintains Our World In Data at the University of Oxford, complains that we never see such a headline in the newspapers, although, on average, this would have been an accurate title every single day during the last 25 years.
By: Sanne Blauw*
The logic is irresistible: if we send enough money to developing countries, poverty will be put to an end once and for all. We have got to help, it’s our responsibility. In the book The Idealist, Nina Munk portrays the charismatic Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Villages in Africa. How good intentions can have destructive consequences.
Already at a young age Jeffrey Sachs (1954) stood out: he received high grades in school, won math competitions, and displayed leadership qualities. He was already a successful economist when the Bolivian president Victor Paz invited him to help Bolivia in the mid-eighties. The country was poor and the economy was in chaos. Inflation reached 25,000%. Sachs wrote a plan for economic recovery. The strict fiscal and monetary policies caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their job or pension. But the “shock therapy” helped: inflation fell to 15%. As it turned out: the economy is controllable, as long as you are willing to make concessions.
Guest Roast: Kaya Children International – Comprehensive Protection for Children and Adolescents Living on the Street
UNICEF estimates that the total number of street children in the world runs into the tens of millions. A study by Toybox, a Christian charity committed to helping street children in Latin America, found that in Bolivia there are over 2,500 children living on the streets in major cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz; that 20 percent of them had left home because there wasn’t enough food, 20 percent were abandoned, and 60 percent had been abused; that most street children are illiterate because they left school; and that 90 percent use solvents as a form of escapism.
Meanwhile, these children have legal rights that are supported by the Bolivian constitution, but which are not realized in the real world. This injustice is the reason for the existence of Kaya Children International.
Kaya is a small, grassroots, non-profit institution located in La Paz. It was originally called the Bolivian Street Children Project, and was founded in 1997 by Dr. Chi Huang, who at the time was training to be a doctor in Boston, U.S.A. with sponsorship from the Park Street Church of Boston. The organization seeks to promote the development and protection of, and to restore the fundamental rights of, children and adolescents who live on the street, are in high-risk situations, or are the victims of violence or abandonment. The first home opened in 2001 as an initiative of the Park Street Church; over the next years the project grew and became an independent non-profit organization. The leaders realized that the next stage of growth was not to just build more homes, but to engage in preventative interventions to enable families to raise their own children in a better way. In 2008, to mark this stage of development, the organization was renamed to Kaya Children International. Read More »
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 »
By David Harper.
Who’s to blame for poverty? Is it the poor themselves? Or society? Or is it just bad luck or fate? Just over forty years ago, American sociologist Joe Feagin asked over a thousand Americans and found that 53 percent blamed the poor themselves, 22 percent blamed societal factors and 18 percent put poverty down to fate (1972). In a very real sense people were prepared to blame the victim. The tendency to blame the victims of poverty for their own fate is similar to what Melvin Lerner (1980) has called the belief in a just world – the Just World Theory – where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Thus if a person is poor they must somehow have deserved that poverty.
In 1990, some colleagues and I drew on Feagin’s work, designing a survey to examine how British people explained poverty in the developing world. The most popular explanations for poverty included the inefficiency of developing world governments, exploitation by other countries and climate. However we found that those with a stronger Just World belief were significantly less likely to agree that poverty in the developing world was due to exploitation by other countries, war or the world economic and banking system.
Does it matter what explanations people give for poverty? Read More »
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 »
So far this month the Development Roast blog has published articles about being poor but not feeling poor, challenges of identifying the poor and consumerism to hide poverty. All of which highlight the loose and ever changing perception that people have of poverty.
As a result, the topic of pro-poor development often sparks lengthy debates when raised, since without a specific definition of what poverty is and what it is not, people differ in their views of how to relieve people of this intangible concept. This is especially the case when supposedly very poor people actively choose their lifestyle over one that offers financial gains through entering the world markets, a phenomenon that is largely attributed to poor people’s assumption that certain financial improvements would threaten their community lifestyle, which in the end is what they prize above all else.Real poverty, rather than just being poor, can be defined in terms of food insecurity: if you cannot provide food for yourself and your family due to physical or circumstantial restrictions to sufficient finances or fertile land, then you are living in poverty. Read More »
Here’s a question for you: how do we know that all the aid given to Africa has had any effect? The tricky thing about trying to answer this question, and analyzing problems such as global poverty, is that the world cannot be treated as a laboratory experiment. We cannot create two identical Africas and give aid to one and not the other, keeping all the other variables such as political conditions, climate, and population, constant.
What happens in fields such as medicine, when we want to know whether a drug works or not? Suppose we’ve developed a new pill which, we think, prevents headaches. We find two chronic headache-sufferers who are identical in terms of gender, age, and general health, and X takes the pill every day but not Y. After a month it turns out that X no longer suffers headaches but Y does. What can we conclude? Well, nothing at all. Because we have no way of knowing what would have happened if X hadn’t taken the medicine – maybe his headaches would have disappeared anyway because he finally started wearing his glasses.
Poverty is more than an income measure or financial disadvantage. It is also a state of mind, a feeling of anxiety, and it forms the perception that society has of individuals, and even the perception these individuals have of themselves. It is because of this that people living in poverty face so many limitations, ones that go beyond the mere size of their wallet. They experience a lot more stress and social pressure. Those who consider poor people to be lazy treat them as if they were inferior, and, in turn, poor people try to mask their poverty in order to receive better treatment. Read More »
The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Growing up in 1980s and 90s Russia was not easy. For the first few years of my life three generations of my family lived in a tiny two bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a ten story grey Communist monolith. Living in such close proximity, my grandparents on my mum’s side, my parents, and my sister and I shared a lot, except perhaps privacy. With regular state salary payments being rarer than all the world’s blue moons, my mum forwent many meals to keep my sister and I fed. On the flip side, every year, for the best part of the three months that a typical Russian school summer break lasts, my father’s parents inherited the responsibility of taking care of us, the kids. Their apartment, located in a rural town called Gorodovikovsk in the southern Russian Republic of Kalmykia, where my grandmother still lives, was a little roomier, but it lacked many of the amenities that most people living in developed countries take for granted. We used the communal outdoor, hole-in-the-ground latrine, using only old news pages for toilet paper. Meanwhile, on the count of, at best, an unreliable water supply, we filled up every pot and pan in the kitchen with fresh water from the local well, heating just enough every other day to have a quick “bucket wash” (perhaps this explains why I am still unable to take a shower that lasts longer than a minute).