This paper uses both quantitative and qualitative data from Young Lives to examine household poverty dynamics and child well-being in Ethiopian communities. The survey data indicate that many households remained poor over time, while a few moved in or out of poverty over the years.
Many households are vulnerable to economic shocks and adverse events. Poor families find it hard to deal with such events and have to seek the help of their children. Data from in-depth interviews show that most of the children in our sample worked to maintain or improve the economic situations of their families. The evidence also illustrates an obvious mismatch between what the children do for the family and to what extent they, as individuals, benefit from it. For some, the changes they largely brought about have hardly trickled down to them. It suggests that there is no guarantee that positive changes in family economic status bring about improvements in the well-being of children. Thus, there is a tension between household wealth and child well-being.
Such tension also suggests a methodological challenge in research to understand household poverty dynamics, which often ignores the place and role of children. Traditionally, data on household poverty are obtained from adults mainly through surveys, and children's contributions and their potential role in providing data on consumption are usually overlooked. To understand child poverty, we need to penetrate deeper into household poverty dynamics to discover the place of children. Children's agency, as demonstrated in their essential contribution to the family economy and their ability to provide data for understanding poverty, needs to be acknowledged.