By Dena Ringold, Mitchell A. Orenstein, Erika Wilkens
Roma are the largest minority group in Europe and are the major poverty risk group in Central and Eastern Europe. Poverty rates from recent World Bank poverty studies are striking. In Bulgaria, Roma were found to be ten times more likely to be poor than ethnic Bulgarians. Roma also comprise an increasing share of the population in ECA countries, because of higher birth rates. These dynamics have gained international attention, and the European Union accession process, in particular, has focused attention on the issue. Governments and international institutions have been eager to support initiatives to address the needs of Roma. However, the lack of credible information on the actual living conditions of Roma and the absence of program evaluations have provided substantial obstacles. This book brings together original sociological research, evaluations of programs, and the first comparative cross-country household survey on ethnicity and poverty. It finds that Roma poverty is multi-faceted and can only be addressed by a comprehensive policy approach that attends to all dimensions of Roma social exclusion. It proposes an inclusive policy approach which would expand and promote Roma involvement and participation in mainstream society, while maintaining cultural and social identity and autonomy. Policy mechanisms include those which make existing policies more accessible to Roma and identifying areas where targeted initiatives are needed.