Where we work
Our research focuses on 4 countries – Ethiopia, India (in the state of Andhra Pradesh), Peru and Vietnam. These were chosen to reflect a wide range of cultural, economic, , political and social contexts. They face some of the common issues experienced by developing countries, such as high debt burden, post-conflict reconstruction, and adverse environmental conditions such as drought and flood.
Nevertheless, despite an initial emphasis on diversity, Peru and Vietnam (and to a large extent India) have experienced consistent economic growth since our work started in 2001. But economic growth does not necessarily mean that the challenges of poverty are overcome – and high levels of social and economic inequality persist.
Thus, we are now studying poverty in the context of national economic change, at the same time recognising that inequality may become increasingly entrenched with growth, and that rising food and oil prices and other global forces may in any case begin to undermine growth in the coming years.
Although Young Lives is not designed to draw direct comparisons across the 4 study countries, we do see some emerging trends:
Positive but fragile poverty trends: in the years leading up to the global economic crisis in 2008, there were signs of poverty reduction in all 4 countries, but these trends are fragile and the poorest families are still the least resilient in times of crisis.
The intergenerational and multidimensional challenge: poverty persists and is passed on across generations. Our multidimensional approach demonstrates the need for policy measures that target households but
The promise of education: enrolment in education has increased significantly in all 4 countries, and especially Ethiopia, in part due to the MDG commitment of government and donors. Parents and children have high hopes for the benefits that education will deliver, and even the very poorest families are prepared to invest significantly in their children’s education. However, quality is often poor, and parents and children have to balance what the opportunities offered by school education with what they learn through informal channels in the community.
Challenging progress: both parents and children see the value of education and the promise this offers to them to escape the harsh reality of life for earlier generations. However, in these contexts of poverty, tradition and community are important for children’s social capital, and western notions of ‘progress’ may not be the best suited to offer a better life.
The tensions in social programmes: child-level analysis of policy interventions shows that many social programmes that are targeted at households have unintended consequences for children (such as increasing child labour).