The Economic and Human Dimensions of Poverty

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Date: 2018
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Topic overview; Essential overview
Length: 6,416 words
Lexile Measure: 1410L

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There are a number of overlapping forms of human deprivation that cannot be neatly classified as either causes or effects of poverty. For example, chronic hunger and malnutrition are results of poverty, but they also weaken immune systems, undermine maternal health, encourage an unsustainable approach to resource extraction, and reduce school attendance and the ability of students to learn. Saddled with a constellation of problems such as this, an individual or community faces an extremely arduous climb out of poverty. Although national economic development is rightly the focus of many antipoverty programs, these other overlapping forms of deprivation do not necessarily disappear with economic gains at the national level, as measured by growth in gross domestic product (the total market value of final goods and services that are produced within an economy in a given year).

Moreover, addressing the multiple overlapping components of poverty can bring gains in national economic development beyond those achieved through a strict focus on finance and economics. For example, the gender inequities that characterize many developing societies are frequently an affront to the consensus international view of universal human rights, but they also limit economic development by suppressing the productive potential of women. Finally, economic development programs imposed by outside groups, along with economic policies in the developed world, are themselves sometimes blamed for worsening rather than alleviating poverty in developing countries.

The nature of human and economic development challenges varies from region to region. The countries that have seen the biggest gains in human and economic development since the 1980s, such as China, India, and Brazil, have followed diverse paths rooted in their own unique challenges and institutions, rather than enacting a single authorized set of development strategies such as those commonly recommended by the international community after World War II (1939–1945). Increasingly, international leaders recognize the need for pragmatism, flexibility, and knowledge of a particular country's or region's challenges.

Antipoverty efforts in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where extremely low average incomes are the norm, must necessarily take different forms from antipoverty efforts in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, which have higher average incomes but greater inequality. Indeed, in spite of the fact that Latin American and Caribbean countries are generally more developed and economically dynamic than sub-Saharan African countries, the poorest people in Latin America and the Caribbean are on average poorer than their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014 the average daily income of people living on less than $1.25 per day was just $0.60 in Latin America and the Caribbean, compared with $0.71 for the same category of people in sub-Saharan Africa (“Trends in Poverty Indicators by Region, 1990–2015,” in World Development Indicators 2014, World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2014, http://data.worldbank.org/sites/default/files/wdi-2014-book.pdf).

Thus, as the economies of the developing world continue to grow at rates that outpace those in the developed world, the need to understand the complex dynamics of poverty is becoming ever more apparent. This discussion will survey of some of the key overlapping dimensions of poverty...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|NXHGWC220572124