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Understanding and explaining chronic poverty: An evolving framework for Phase III of CPRC’s research

Working paper

Written by Andrew Shepherd

Working paper

In order to explain chronic poverty and determine how best to interrupt it, a clear and coherent conceptual framework is necessary. The framework presented in this paper has been developed based on work undertaken both by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) during its first two phases (2000-2005) and by others, and is intended to inform

 CPRC’s ongoing research and policy analysis in Phase III (2005-2010).

 The framework has three levels. The first is a statement of the problem ‘chronic poverty’ (Section 2). The second is an elaboration of how we are looking at this problem through the lenses of poverty dynamics and intergenerational transmission (Sections 2 and 3). The third level proposes concepts which are most useful in understanding and explaining chronic poverty, poverty dynamics and intergenerational transmission (Section 4). In particular this suggests that there is an inter-disciplinary meeting point between concepts of ‘poverty traps’ and ‘adverse incorporation’, and suggests that the cutting edge of research on chronic poverty lies in the interaction of asset dynamics and changing social relations. Key components of the context are explored in Section 5. One of these – the performance of the state, and in particular the under-performance of ‘fragile states’ or chronically deprived countries – is the subject of Section 6, which suggests both that research on chronic poverty has something to say to the ‘fragile states’ discourse, and that dealing with chronic poverty may be an important task in ‘fragile states’. Section 7 concludes with a reflection on how this paper changes the way we see chronic poverty.

 The current working paper provides an overview of the entire framework. Elements of the framework are elaborated upon in a set of companion papers.

Andrew Shepherd