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Poverty dynamics: Interdisciplinary perspectives

Time (GMT +00) 17:30 19:00

Tony Addison, Book author and Director, Brooks World Poverty Institute and Professor of Development Studies, University of Manchester
David Hulme, Book author and Leverhulme Research Professor and Professor of Development Studies, University of Manchester

Paul Shaffer - Trent University, Peterborough Canada

Andrew Shepherd
, Director, Chronic Poverty Research Centre and Director of Programmes, Overseas Development Institute

(1) Andrew Shepherd opened the event by introducing the authors of Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Tony Addison and David Hulme, and discussant Paul Shaffer of Trent University, Canada.

(2) David Hulme began his introduction of Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives by explaining why the book is distinct from other books published on poverty: because it focuses on a multidimensional approach to understanding poverty— which is now an emerging concept in poverty research. This multidimensional approach combines the traditional disciplines of economics and social statistics, and other disciplines in the social sciences.

(3) In order to deepen the understanding of poverty and the policies necessary to eliminate it, David outlined three main fronts where progress must be made:

·         Poverty dynamics –  research must move away from “static analyses”, which may constrain research because of its “limited explanatory power”, and look at the individual level – over the life-course, across generations and various social groups.

·         Multi-dimensionality – traditional quantitative methods to measure poverty dynamics mostly focus on income and consumption, and multi-dimensional concepts to measure poverty dynamics are rare. These much needed multidimensional concepts may involve economic assets or concepts of well-being.

·         Cross-disciplinary approach – a Q-squared method, which combines both qualitative and quantitative research, is required. In place of focusing on one kind of study only, a Q-squared method makes it possible to combine the strengths of both quantitative and qualitative studies, thus producing deeper understanding.

(4) David drew attention to the aspect of time and poverty which characterises the chapters of Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. The approach taken on time and poverty is that well-being changes over time, and the causes and patterns of this change adds an important dimension to measuring and conceptualising poverty. Some points on time and poverty that David presented are:

·         There is a need for a better understanding of poverty trends that reveal whether the poor move into and/or out of poverty over time.

·         The policy importance of transitory poverty vs duration poverty (chronic poverty) is great; panel datasets to measure poverty must broaden to include human development measures.

·         Poverty traps, in particular low levels of asset stocks, lead to persistent poverty and do not allow escape from poverty. Analysis is also needed on how chronic poverty causes assets to deplete.

(5) David introduced the ongoing work of the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), where research surrounding Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives arises from. The CPRC’s Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09 is a useful accompaniment to the book as it focuses on the main poverty traps that keep people in chronic poverty and outlines policy responses to reduce chronic poverty.

(6) Following David’s introduction, Tony Addison further emphasised the importance of understanding poverty across time and across generations (chronic poverty). Therefore, the need for panel data sets and samples to capture the “time side” of chronic poverty and its “multi-dimensionality”, is presented and discussed in Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. According to Tony, a “true integration of the qualitative and quantitative” is needed, but this perspective brings about a debate between traditional studies and methods and the multidimensional and integrated methods presented in the book.

(7) Poverty dynamics faces major conceptual challenges which need to be addressed and are discussed and critiqued in the book. To show the importance of addressing these challenges now, Tony gave the example of how governments can deal with the problems of the chronically poor (who are the most vulnerable group) at the time of a present economic crisis. Tony stressed that to effectively address problems such as these, q-squared methods need to be set up now and multidimensional concepts, which is the next frontier, is needed at this instant. Additionally, Tony pointed out that qualitative and quantitative methods and disciplines currently still “talk past each other”, and the need to link these two disciplines is crucial at this time.

(8) Following the introduction of David Hulme and Tony Addison, Paul Shaffer discussed his views of Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Paul hailed the book a success, as it was able to combine interdisciplinary studies, thoughts and concepts. The success of the book, according to Paul, is also because:

·         it rejects methodological individualism in favour of structural analysis;

·         it rejects the traditional analysis of what poverty means in favour of a more local understanding.

(9) The bringing together of different dimensions leads to more infest conclusions which spurs dialogue and discourse, Paul said. The book suggests to combine the methodological and empirical, however, Paul points out that the empirical has to be resolved as it faces several challenges. To help resolve this, there must be “a prior process of investigation” of how to combine two disciplines and how to arrive at a common strategy.

(10) On a last note, Paul left the message that Poverty Dynamics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives has laid down challenges, and the next step is how to face these challenges in a range of approaches.

(11) The meeting ended with questions raised from the audience, some of which included topics surrounding the lack of assets of the chronically poor, assets in relation to migration and remittances to low-income countries, and the impact of poverty research on policies.


Poverty dynamics concepts and methods are becoming increasingly important in understanding poverty. This collection of interdisciplinary essays from anthropologists, economists, sociologists and political scientists includes cutting-edge research on poverty dynamics and provides a much needed multidimensional perspective to conceptualising poverty.

Authors Tony Addison, David Hulme and Ravi Kanbur review poverty dynamics research in developing countries; provide discussions on current analyses of poverty assessment; and focus on a poverty framework that is based on social relations and structural analysis.

Tony Addison and David Hulme will present highlights of their book at this CPRC and ODI book launch. The book is published by Oxford University Press and will be available in paperback at a 20% discount during the launch.