New Study Finds Hope In Fight Against Global Poverty

A new study finds that by using a comprehensive approach to fighting extreme poverty could yield real and lasting results. By employing what is known as the Graduation approach, which involves a burst of intensely focused help for a limited period of time, analysts found in some cultures there was success in breaking participants from a mind-set that sees little or no hope of breaching the extreme-poverty ceiling.

The Graduation approach takes a holistic view toward development by creating opportunities for communities to overcome extreme poverty through careful selection, intensive integrated support including asset grants, skill development, personalized healthcare support, and ensuring social security through community mobilization,” according to BRAC, the development program which designed the policy.

“Being ultra-poor usually means more than just not having an income — like not enough food to eat, no way to save, no information, and low perception of their opportunities to escape their situation,” said Yale economist Dean Karlan, co-author of the study, told Yale News.

“We tested an approach that addressed several factors at once, and found significant improvements, even three years after the program did the bulk of the work.”

The study, conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Yale University, was first published in the journal Science.

The researchers studied one group which participated and another which did not and compared the two groups to see how their lives changed up to a year after the program ended.

Those in the program group had significantly more assets and savings, spent more time working, went hungry on fewer days, and experienced lower levels of stress and improved physical health.

However, it is not cheap as costs per household ranged from $1,455 in India to $5,962 in Pakistan, although they were offset by positive returns on investment. The researchers hope to cut costs in future by scaling back the experiment’s more expensive components, such as training. For every dollar spent on the program in India, ultra-poor households saw $4.33 in long-term benefits, according to Nature magazine.

The government of Ethiopia plans to expand the program to benefit 3 million people through the country’s Productive Safety Net Program, and the program already is being scaled up in Pakistan and India, reports The Verge.

“Governments, aid organizations, and donors have been looking for something backed by real evidence showing it can help the poorest of the world, and this Graduation approach does exactly that,” said Annie Duflo, executive director of Innovations for Poverty Action.


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