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Poverty

What Does Adam Smith’s Linen Shirt Have to do with Global Poverty?

Martin Ravallion's picture

In his Inquiry into the Nature And Causes of the Wealth of Nations Adam Smith pointed to the social-inclusion role of a linen shirt in 18th century Europe:

“A linen shirt … is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. Adam Smith. Photo: Istockphoto.comThe Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct.”

This passage has often been used to justify the view that poverty is not absolute but relative—that certain socially-specific expenditures are essential for social inclusion, on top of basic needs for nutrition and physical survival.

The way this idea is implemented in practice is to set a “relative poverty line” that is a constant proportion of average income for the country and date in question. That is how poverty is measured in most of Western Europe. By contrast, poverty measures in developing countries have almost invariably used absolute lines, which aim to have a fixed real value over time. The World Bank’s international “$1 a day” poverty lines also aim to be absolute lines across countries, using purchasing power parities from the International Comparison Program.

The Food Price Threat to Poor Continues

Sarah Holmberg's picture

Otaviano Canuto writes about the Food Price Watch today on the the Growth and Crisis blog.

He writes:

“According to the World Bank’s Food Price Watch, a brief just released tracking food prices and poverty trends, global food prices are 36% above their levels a year ago and remain volatile, close to their 2008 peak.  Key staples going through the roof include maize (74%), wheat (69%), soybeans (36%) and sugar (21%)...For some of us, expensive food might mean we spend more money in the supermarket, but for millions of people around the world, it is a real threat. The poor spend most of their money on food. So think about Mexicans, whose daily diet includes a good amount of tortillas. Or a family in Mauritania trying to get enough bread amid the 40% wheat price increase of the last year.”

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Micro health insurance and the circle of poverty

Dilip Ratha's picture

Back home in the KBK districts of Orissa, the head of the household that for decades has worked with my family, fell ill recently. He is in his early 50s. His legs have stopped functioning normally. There have been similar cases before, and some got partially cured when they were taken to a doctor in Raipur, a city some 150 miles away. The family wants to take the patient to the same doctor. But that would cost a lot. They need cash. Urgently. They are considering approaching a local money lender in exchange for a mortgage on their meager ancestral land.

The Story behind 50 Years of Transport Investment in the Poorest Countries

The International Development Association (IDA) is a vital, yet oddly lesser known, arm of the World Bank Group. Briefly, IDA receives donor remittances and a portion of interest payments received from World Bank lending programs and disburses these funds as interest-free grants and subsidized loans to the poorest countries in lieu of traditional lending.

How technology can enable rapid responses to acute poverty events

Randeep Sudan's picture

The immediacy and tragedy of acute poverty is exemplified by the distressing condition of not being able to buy food for a hungry child, or medicine for a sick infant, or finding money for a funeral.  The help required in such situations may indeed be small, but can make a big difference in the life of a poor family. Modern information technologies hold the promise of helping the poor in radical and game changing ways.

 

Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Development

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

Blogging from the World Bank's Indigenous Peoples Research Dissemination Workshop in Washington DC.

As is well known, there are more 300 million indigenous peoples in the world.  While they make up fewer than 5 percent of the global population they account for about 10 percent of the world’s poor.  Next year, Cambridge University Press will publish my book with Gillette Hall on the state of the world’s indigenous peoples

As part of the dissemination process, we have brought together most of the contributors to our volume for a workshop in Washington D.C. today, to share their research with each other and with an audience of World Bank staff, researchers and others from the development community. We expect a lively discussion on our forthcoming publication, which covers countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

Deliberation - What?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The practice of deliberation has had its place in participatory governance, in development and other areas, for some time. What do you think of when you hear "deliberation"? Porto Alegre's participatory budgeting? India's Gram Sabhas? Parliament? America Speaks? It's all that - and so much more.

In the most common understanding, deliberation is some form of interpersonal discussion about an issue of public concern. This can range from everyday talk about political issues at, say, the kitchen table, to formalized group discussions that aim at solving a common problem. One definition comes from Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs*, who state that deliberation is "the process through which deliberative democracy occurs," a "specific, important, and idealized category within the broader notion of what we call 'discursive participation'." The category is ideal because, à la Habermas, it requires a range of ideal characteristics to be truly deliberative, first and foremost openness and equality of discourse.

Do poverty and climate change affect you?

Saadia Iqbal's picture

Maybe the summers where you live are hotter than ever. Maybe there’s a kid who works in your neighborhood restaurant when he should be at school instead. Have you ever stopped to think about the repercussions of climate change or poverty in your life? It can be so subtle that quite often we don’t even notice.


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