Hope Springs Eternal

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.

Esther Duflo, professor of economics at MIT

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 ShafirEsther 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


When Girls Become Liabilities: The Trend of Gendercide in India

Source: The Economist

As illustrated in previous blog posts, women could play a major role in development if societal barriers to education and employment were eliminated. However, these barriers are especially difficult to overcome, as they are molded by centuries of discrimination and unequal treatment.  The act of ‘gendercide’ has been particularly difficult to overlook.

As the name implies, gendercide is “gender-selective mass killing.” The act can refer to the targeting of both males and females; however, the targeting of female infants, or female infanticide, has become deeply embedded in numerous cultures throughout the world. In East Asia specifically, this custom has come as a result of a cultural favoritism for boys over girls. Reasoning varies by region; however, does tend to be primarily economic. Girls are regarded as “liabilities” to the family and the prospects of having a male child are welcomed as a result. Continue reading