Poverty, Inequality and Wellbeing

IDS research challenges orthodox views on the nature of poverty, how poverty is understood and how policy can best accelerate poverty reduction. Our work focuses on poverty and wellbeing through the lens of equity and inequality. Poverty is not only about 'poor' people but also about the social and economic inequalities that compound and reproduce poverty. Social structures and relationships between the poor and the non-poor, middle class and elites and donors and NGOs are also key.

Girls with chicken in Mumbai slum

Traditional ways of thinking about poverty, inequality and wellbeing are increasingly being questioned and policy spaces are opening for us to rethink poverty, inequality and wellbeing.The UN poverty targets, the Millennium Development Goals, are due for renewal in 2015. This process may result in a second generation of MDGs. In this context, we ask how these debates and other policy discussions should take account of the new geography of global poverty and how can they factor in new thinking on the nature of poverty, inequality and wellbeing?

Our work on poverty, inequality and wellbeing focuses on three key areas including:

  1. New concepts of poverty, vulnerability and wellbeing – what are the new and emerging ways of thinking about poverty, vulnerability, and wellbeing and their interactions and what do these changes mean for policy and research? 
  2. Different experiences of poverty, vulnerability and wellbeing - How does the experience of poverty differ by countries at different levels of development by social groups, by ages and by gender? 
  3. Contemporary patterns and trends of poverty, vulnerability and wellbeing – How are global and regional patterns of poverty, vulnerability and wellbeing changing and what do these changes mean for policy and research? 

Key projects include:

2015 Agenda: What Should Replace the MDGs?

The new context of post economic crisis and climate change adaptation present an opportunity to rethink development progress and indicators. Although the core concerns of the MDGs such as nutrition, health, education are likely to remain valid after 2015 in some way, how best can their progress best be assessed? Our research explores the types of indicators and institutional architecture and UN System required to underpin a post 2015 development framework and the kind of global processes of deliberation that are needed to build political momentum for 2015.

Human Wellbeing

In a world where many experience unprecedented levels of wellbeing, chronic poverty remains a major concern for many developing countries and the international community. Conventional frameworks for understanding development and poverty have focused on money, commodities and economic growth. Research on wellbeing approach seeks to challenge these conventional approaches and contribute to a new paradigm for development centred on human wellbeing.

The New Bottom Billion – Poverty in Middle Income Countries

The global poverty 'problem' is changing. There is a new 'bottom billion' of 960 million poor people or 72% of the world's poor who live not in poor countries but in middle-income countries. This is a dramatic change from just two decades ago, when 93% of poor people lived in low-income countries. Research undertaken also suggests that the trend towards middle-income poverty will continue until 2020 and 2030 irrespective of economic growth.

IDS research also explores the implications of these shifts for poverty reduction strategies as poverty increasingly turns from an international to a national distribution problem, and that governance and domestic taxation and redistribution policies become of more importance than overseas development assistance.

Analysis of Maharashtra’s Decline in Childhood Stunting

UNICEF and IDS are collaborating to undertake an in-depth analysis of the factors that may have led to the 16% decline in child stunting in Maharashtra evidenced in surveys covering the period 2006-2012. More details

DAC Development Debate

On 13 June 2012 the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) hosted its third DAC Development Debate (DDD). Centring on the theme New poverty patterns: Where will the poor live? More details

Future Research Leaders ‘Reducing Poverty in the First 18 years of Life'

This proposed research responds to these concerns by using monetary and non-monetary measures to analyse child poverty dynamics, assessing overlaps and mismatches between those measures and investigating reasons for potential differences More details

Informal Work and Wellbeing in Urban South Asia: Who Succeeds, Who Fails and Under What Conditions?

This study proposes an exploration of the determinants of wellbeing for informal workers living in informal settlements across a diverse set of urbanising localities in Bangladesh and India. We will present empirical evidence on what patterns and gradations of wellbeing success and failure are emerging for women and men engaged in informal work and living in informal settlements. More details

Measuring Wellbeing for Development: A Primer

The OECD Development Centre has commissioned Allister McGregor to write "Guidelines on Measuring Progress for Development". More details

Research on the Poverty Impact of Market and Enabling Business Environment Programmes in Kenya

To what extent does private sector development work in Kenya contribute to a reduction in poverty and inequality? This review aims to assess the evidence base for DFID Kenya’s Wealth Creation Pillar programming. More details

States Delivering for Poor People

This project entails an initial scoping study in Rajasthan and Western UP to firm up research questions that are relevant and useful for understanding the politics and implementation of the MGNREGA. More details

The New Bottom Billion

New IDS research shows that the global poverty 'problem' is changing. There is a new 'bottom billion' of 960m poor people or 72 per cent of the world's poor who live not in poor countries but in middle-income countries (MICs). More details

The World Social Science Report 2015-2016

The next World Social Science Report due to be published in 2016 will focus on the critical contemporary issues of inequalities and justice. More details

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