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Poverty

Lead pollution robs children of their futures

Ernesto Sanchez-Triana's picture
Vicki Francis/Department for International Development

When the water is poor, people get sick: they have diarrhea; their growth is stunted; they die. When the air is poor, people get sick: they cough; they cannot leave their beds; they die. However, they do not look sick when there is lead in their blood. You cannot look at a child who has an unhealthy blood lead level (BLL) and say, "This is not right. Something must be done," because in most cases, there is nothing to see.

Lead (Pb) exposure—which is making headlines in the U.S. because of recent events in Flint, Michigan-- is a major source of critical environmental health risks. But the problem is subtle: Affected children do not perform as well in school. They are late to read. They are slow to learn how to do tasks. Perhaps a few more children are born with cognitive deficits. Perhaps these children have less impulse control. Perhaps they exhibit more violence.

These symptoms are not always understood as an environmental or a public health problem – or indeed a development problem. Instead, people will say it is an issue of morals or of education. They will discipline the children, and then they will take themselves to task and ask how and why they are failing to raise these children correctly. Furthermore, they will have no idea that the problem is in the children’s blood.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Studies have documented that exposure leads to neuropsychological impacts in children--including impaired intelligence, measured as intelligence IQ losses--at blood lead levels even lower than 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL).  So, clearly, the effect occurs at even very low BLLs. 

Chart: Higher Poverty Rates for Latin America's Indigenous

Tariq Khokhar's picture

Indigenous people in Latin America account for less than 8% of the population, yet make up more than 17% of the region's extremely poor, due to a persistent pattern of social exclusion. Read More and download the report "Indigenous Latin America in the twenty-first century"
 

Education for all in a “rising Africa”

Eleni Abraham Yitbarek's picture

Africa’s remarkable economic growth has been accompanied by the concern that the benefits of the economic growth are not shared broadly. Growth may only go so far; when inequality and lack of social mobility persist, children are effectively born disadvantaged.

There have been gains in schooling in the region. Data from the UNESCO shows that the primary adjusted net enrollment ratio increased from 59% in 1999 to 79% in 2012. Education is becoming more inclusive, but that doesn’t mean African children have an equal chance.

One way to view whether educational opportunities are becoming more equal across children is to look at “education mobility” between generations. Does the next generation of children have more educational mobility than their parents? In Poverty in a Rising Africa report, we investigate trends in the intergenerational transmission of education over 50 years. This work draws on two indicators of mobility traditionally used to access such mobility: the intergenerational gradient and the correlation coefficient between parents and children years of schooling. The intergenerational gradient is simply the regression coefficient of parents’ education as a predictor of children education. It measures intergenerational persistence--a lower the value indicates more intergenerational mobility. The correlation between parents and children years of schooling shows how much of the dispersion in children's education is explained by parental education -- a lower value also indicates more intergenerational mobility. 

What is your challenge? Creating Jobs and Livelihoods for the bottom 40%

Parmesh Shah's picture
A farmer harvests mung beans in Cambodia's northern province. Extreme poverty in the world has decreased considerably over the past three decades. In 1981, more than half of citizens in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate has dropped dramatically to 21% in 2010. Moreover, despite a 59% increase in the developing world’s population, there were significantly fewer people living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010 (1.2 billion) than there were three decades ago (1.9 billion). However, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty—an extremely high figure, so the task ahead of us remains herculean.
 
Among the poor, 78% live in rural areas, and 500 million of these are small farmers. Of these, 170 million are women farmers. Globally, 2.5 billion are dependent on small farms as a source of livelihood and employment.  Agriculture contributes one third of GDP in Africa and more than 65% of the workforce depends on this sector. There has been significant progress in increasing agricultural production and expansion of livelihood and economic opportunities in rural areas. There are about 40 million enterprises, from very small to medium-sized, involved in agribusiness. 
 
Nevertheless, they are too small in size and quality to make the kind of dent in jobs and employment that is needed.  Agriculture accounts for 32% of total employment globally, according to the ILO’s Global Employment Trends Report 2014.  In 2013, 74.5 million youth – aged 15-24 - were unemployed, an increase of more than 700,000 over the previous year. That same year, the global youth unemployment rate reached 13.1%, which was almost three times as high as the adult unemployment rate. One contributing factor in these rates is the lack of interest in agriculture among youth cohorts.  Simply put, agriculture is not a preferred job and livelihood option for young people.
 

Getting Syrians back to work – a win-win for host countries and the refugees

John Speakman's picture
 John Speakman l World Bank

For the last six weeks or so I have been more or less full time engaged in thinking about how we can generate employment opportunities for Syrians in countries that are hosting them, particularly those located in Syria’s near neighbors.  I have reflected on my experience in working on private sector development in Syria nearly a decade ago.  As someone who had worked in virtually every country in the Middle East I was amazed at the country’s industrial potential. 

Second Chances: Giving Dhaka’s slum children an opportunity to go back to school

Mabruk Kabir's picture
12-year old Rafiq, selling ‘chotpoti’, a popular snack in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: Mabruk Kabir/World Bank

Deep in the winding alleys of a Dhaka slum, business was booming. Rafiq, an entrepreneurial 12-year-old, was selling snacks out of a makeshift food cart – and his customers couldn’t get enough.

Is inequality in Africa rising?

Christoph Lakner's picture

Inequality is typically measured at the country-level. “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” the latest World Bank Group Africa poverty report, does not find a systematic increase in inequality - the number of countries showing an increase of within-country inequality is the same as the number of countries showing a decrease. As the report notes, these findings come with the important caveat that the survey instruments used to measure household consumption expenditure are not good at capturing the very rich.

This also leave the question whether the conclusions would change when we ignore national boundaries and look at inequality among all African citizens instead. Doing so puts the disparities that exist within African countries into context with the disparities that exist within the region as a whole, akin to the interpersonal global income distribution. Such a perspective on inequality comes naturally to an international organization as the World Bank.

18 years later, in Romania

Victor Neagu's picture
 
Brasov University, Romania circa 1979

I first moved to Romania in 1998. It was a very different place back then. Stalls of CDs, clothing, pretzels (“covrigi”), and inexpensive electronic gadgets walled the sidewalks of a street that was the artery connecting my neighborhood with the more central parts of the north-eastern city of Iasi.

A sense of hardship was in the air. The city was grey. The collapse of the communist regime left many struggling for a better life in a new system that was striving for the rule of law, democracy and a free market economy.

As a 15-year old student back in those days, I was able to cross the border between Moldova and Romania with my school card. It had a glued color photo of me and my hand-written grades. One time, a border guard asked me if I was a good student. Modesty was not a choice if you wanted to cross the border, or so I felt at the time. He skipped through my grades, smiled and wished me a safe journey.

I moved back to Romania on February 1st of this year. This time as a 33-year old World Bank staff. It has been 18 years, but now I can call Romania home again.

Inequality of opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Paolo Brunori's picture

It is widely known that, compared to other continents, poverty rates are particularly high in Africa.  Somewhat less appreciated is that inequality within countries also tends to be high. “Poverty in a Rising Africa,” the latest World Bank Africa poverty report, shows for example that seven out of the world’s 10 most unequal countries are African, with the country Gini indexes ranging from 0.31 (Niger) to 0.63 (South Africa) (with zero implying perfect equality and one, perfect inequality).
 
However, not only the level of inequality matters, but also the reasons behind it. Unequal outcomes may result from both differences in opportunities as well as differences in effort. There is also growing evidence and consensus that it is especially the former, which is pernicious for development. Rewards by effort may incentivize people. Yet, when welfare mainly differs because of differences at birth (such as gender, ethnicity, or parental background) or, more generally, because of factors beyond the individual control, it tends to be especially detrimental for economic growth and social harmony.


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