The post-2015 development agenda is leading to a focus on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 – or ‘getting to zero'. However, people who escape poverty but remain living just above the poverty line are vulnerable to be pushed back into poverty due to shocks and stresses.
Around 75% of people living in developing countries (approximately four billion people) live on less than $4 a day and are exposed to individual or household shocks (such as ill health, loss of job, theft and death) or shocks experienced by the whole community (such as drought or flooding). Of course, households have varied ways of coping with such shocks – some may experience only a transitory impact; for others this can be long term. For households in low-income countries, the most effective safeguard is a large asset base that they can draw upon, but poorest households are the least likely to have sufficient income, savings and assets to do so, and may resort to negative coping strategies, forced into sacrificing long-term gain for immediate survival needs.
Getting to zero, and staying there, involves not just ensuring that people currently in poverty escape from living in it but also that people do not fall into poverty in the future. This research explores the link between poverty and key variables such as consumption, education, land and diversified sources of incomes using regression analysis in panel data from Ethiopia, Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania. This is complemented by a life history study from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.