The issue of social mobility has proved itself a continual challenge for those working in international development. New research has given policy makers and the poor an unlikely resource in their fight against poverty. Indeed, a recent article in The Economist shows that hope, or lack thereof, plays a major role in the poverty trap.
Development economists have long included the poverty trap in their understanding of the poor. A poverty trap is, simply put, a “self-reinforcing mechanism” which limits the ability of poor individuals to escape poverty, according to a World Bank publication. The publication goes on to identify insufficient capital and technological under-development as two mechanisms working to ensnare the poor in a perpetual cycle of poverty. The work of researchers Eldar Shafir, Esther Duflo, and others, however, is expanding the definition of a poverty trap beyond economic mechanisms to include psychological mechanisms as well.
The link between depression and poverty is well documented. A STAR-D study identifies low income as one of many factors related to higher risk of chronic depression. A Journal of Health and Social Behavior article complements these findings, suggesting that depression can lead to or “transmit” poverty, contributing to the inescapable cycle. Continue reading