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The Microeconomics of Poverty Traps in Mexico

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  • Jean-Paul Chavas
  • Hector J. Villarreal

Abstract

Macroeconomists, development scholars, and policy makers have long recognized the importance of poverty traps as a mayor cause of persistent inequality and a serious limitation to growth. A poverty trap may be defined as a threshold level below which individuals or households will not increase their well-being despite the conditions of the economy. While the importance of poverty traps is widely accepted, their microfoundations (the rationality) behind them are not very well understood. Under the Mexican setting, this paper contributes in two ways. First, we assume that income depends on the capital (both physical and human) that a household posses. Hence, if a household is poor and it is not able to accumulate capital it will remain poor (unless there is a sudden increase to the returns of its existing capital). Thus a poverty trap will be generated. Following Chavas (2004, 2005) we explicitly model the preferences, consumption, and the physical and human capital accumulation of Mexican households. We argue that the typical dynamic model with additive utilities and constant discount rates will not be able to capture poverty traps. The reason is that survival motives are involved (endogenous discounting is needed). Second, employing the same model, we test the impact of the Mexican government most important social policy program (Progresa-Oportunidades), in alleviating poverty traps. In the case of households with youngsters, this program can provide funds conditioned on kids attending school. This will somehow, force the participants to increase their human capital. A comparison between households in the programs versus non participants should shed some light in the effectiveness of the program and the sensitivity of persistent poverty to cash transfers.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Paul Chavas & Hector J. Villarreal, 2005. "The Microeconomics of Poverty Traps in Mexico," DEGIT Conference Papers c010_050, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
  • Handle: RePEc:deg:conpap:c010_050
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    File URL: http://degit.sam.sdu.dk/papers/degit_10/C010_050.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Emmanuel Skoufias & Susan Wendy Parker, 2001. "Conditional Cash Transfers and Their Impact on Child Work and Schooling: Evidence from the PROGRESA Program in Mexico," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Fall 2001), pages 45-96, August.
    2. Sadoulet, Elisabeth & Janvry, Alain de & Davis, Benjamin, 2001. "Cash Transfer Programs with Income Multipliers: PROCAMPO in Mexico," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 1043-1056, June.
    3. J. Scott Shonkwiler & Steven T. Yen, 1999. "Two-Step Estimation of a Censored System of Equations," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 81(4), pages 972-982.
    4. Dhar, Tirtha & Chavas, Jean-Paul & Gould, Brian W., 2002. "An Empirical Assessment of Endogeneity Issues in Demand Analysis for Differentiated Products," Working Papers 201561, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Food System Research Group.
    5. Brian W. Gould, 2003. "An Empirical Assessment of Endogeneity Issues in Demand Analysis for Differentiated Products," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 85(3), pages 605-617.
    6. Paul Schultz, T., 2004. "School subsidies for the poor: evaluating the Mexican Progresa poverty program," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 199-250, June.
    7. Streufert, Peter A., 1992. "An abstract topological approach to dynamic programming," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 59-88.
    8. Peter A. Streufert, 1990. "Stationary Recursive Utility and Dynamic Programming under the Assumption of Biconvergence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(1), pages 79-97.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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