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Economic Shocks

Coping with large shocks: What makes it different?

Rasmus Heltberg's picture

There is a question we often get asked when presenting our new book, Living through Crises. The question is about how the coping behavior described in the book differs from what poor people do to deal with the day-to-day shocks of living in chronic poverty. Based on qualitative, bottom-up research in 17 developing and transition countries, the book describes impacts of the food, fuel and financial crises on the lives of ordinary people and what people do to cope. It talks about the hardships and stresses from living through a period of deep crises; meals that gradually become fewer and less nutritious; people seeking more jobs and working longer hours to make ends meet; how the burden of coping often looks different for women, men, and youth; erratic school attendance and lower quality of care, nutrition and education for infants and children; and the stresses and tensions in family and community life wrought by economic hardships. The book also chronicles the sources of support people could rely upon, often family, friends and informal community groups with the state, NGOs and financial institutions playing small roles at best and being directly unhelpful at worst. The work described in the book helped inform the Global Monitoring Report 2012 and other Bank products.