Universal truths and hidden realities – chronic poverty in Ethiopia
New research from IDS provides a fresh perspective into how the drivers of poverty interact and combine to keep many rural Ethiopian families locked in poverty.
Poverty in Ethiopia has fallen considerably in recent years. Significant drops in poverty rates reflect improved living conditions across the country, including increased ownership of draught animals and the improvement of people’s houses. Nevertheless, a significant number of children and families in Ethiopia remain locked in poverty with little opportunity to escape. Lack of labour capacity in the household, limited infrastructure and shocks (such as illness or drought) are key factors that prevent movements out of poverty.
This new VPR Working Paper is the third in a series of papers by Keetie Roelen and Laura Camfield that explore poverty dynamics for a single cohort of children and their families in rural Ethiopia using information from surveys, life histories and case studies from 2002 to 2009.The investigation into movements in and out of poverty, and factors that contribute to households becoming or remaining poor is based on data from Young Lives, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty. This study collects quantitative and qualitative data across a period of 15 years in four different countries, including Ethiopia.
Findings largely confirm existing analyses of poverty in Ethiopia. Exposure to multiple (rather than single) shocks, lack of land and weak connections to social and political networks (most notably the Productive Safety Net Programme – PSNP) present crucial problems for households and their children trying to prevent themselves falling into poverty or lift themselves out of poverty. Other factors appear more context-specific and illustrate the importance of looking beyond trends that hold for rural Ethiopia as a whole. These include the role of debt and credit, ethnicity, breakdown of family relationships and household characteristics.
It is the unique combination of quantitative survey-based data and qualitative information through interviews and life histories in the Young Lives study that allows us to explore both universal truths about poverty in Ethiopia and the hidden realities. Despite the wealth of research already available, further exploration of the hidden realities of poverty, particularly for children, is imperative in supporting sustained moves out of poverty.
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