What has happened to the poorest 50%? - Shepherd & Lenhardt
*Accepted under the "Addressing Inequalities" Global Thematic Consultation - Call for Proposals for Background Papers, October 2012*
by Andrew Shepherd and Amanda Lenhardt, Chronic Poverty Advisory Network, Overseas Development Institute, London
Abstract: The evidence we have on chronic poverty and the fortunes of the poorest people suggests that a significant proportion of the poor, between one quarter and one half, are chronically poor in low and lower middle income countries and this proportion of the poor in 2000 could plausibly still be poor today. This paper analyses some of the reasons behind the persistence of poverty. The data on poverty dynamics are restricted to only a few countries therefore this paper also explores the changing fortunes of the poorest quintile of the population between the 1990s and the 2000s from 33 Demographic and Health Surveys, concluding that significantly greater benefits (and fewer losses) from development across a range of indicators have gone to the second and third quintiles. This evidence shows that the poorest have indeed lost out in absolute progress, meaning they have not seen the same total amount of benefits as as accrued by other wealth groups. The poorest have also lost more land and marry earlier in relative terms, meaning that even when we control for the initial state of the poorest in the 1990’s, their rate of progress is lagging behind that of other quintiles. Policies to equalize the benefits of development are wide ranging and often context specific, many of them are not amenable to international goals and targets and they require positive political change and supportive change in social values.