I was privileged to hear a lecture today given by a man who studies poverty. Some interesting a-ha moments for me:
He explained that trends in poverty are usually measured as a net percentage, as in, the number of people in a particular area at or below poverty level has fallen (or risen) x%. But that measurement isn’t the whole story. There’s usually quite a bit of movement of people into and out of poverty behind the single number. If, say, there are 3% fewer people in a particular community living at or below poverty, the story likely goes deeper, something like this: 15% of the community fell into poverty and 18% of the community rose out of poverty.
His point: there needs to be two very different policy interventions, one that works with those who are in poverty and one that helps prevent the fall into poverty.
Next: the factors that most commonly lead to an individual’s or family’s fall into poverty include illness, debt, death and expensive weddings. Expensive weddings. ! Wow…
One more: two factors that did not appear significant in any of his research (which spans several decades and includes data from more than 35,000 families on 3 continents) really surprised me, since they are, I think, commonly thought of as culprits. They are LAZINESS and ALCOHOLISM. Those two factors did not appear as significant factors that lead to a fall into poverty.
The speaker: Anirudh Krishna. His most recent book: “One Illness Away…” promises to be a fascinating read. An added plus: he struck me as a most gracious and humble human being.