Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Preventing Poverty

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Preventing Poverty

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "The Mixed News on Poverty" by Anirudh Krishna, in Current History, Jan. 2013.

"SPECTACULAR" IS NOT TOO STRONG A WORD to describe the reduction in poverty around the world during the past quarter-century. Between 1981 and 2005, world gross domestic product quadrupled. The percentage of the global population living on less than $1.25 fell by half.

That reduction resulted mostly from people being lifted out of poverty, and in the popular mind, that's where the story ends. But it doesn't. One-third of the world's poor were not born in poverty. They fell into it.

New policies need to be preventive--focused on stemming the flow of people into the ranks of the newly poor, argues Anirudh Krishna, a public policy professor at Duke. He and several colleagues surveyed more than 35,000 households in Uganda, Kenya, Peru, India, and the United States over a nine-year period (2001-10). Poverty, they found, is sticky. Sixty percent of those who had fallen into poverty 15 or more years before they were surveyed were still poor.

Krishna and his colleagues isolated one reason: the cost of medical care. In the Indian state of Gujarat, 88 percent of the households that slipped into poverty attributed their plight to health care costs. A Peruvian man told of losing his wife to uterine cancer: "I was obliged to sell my animals, cows, oxen, and donkeys, and I also went into debt in order to care for her, and later, to bury her. …

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