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From Growth to Poverty Reduction: a New Conceptual Framework in Development Economics

Listed author(s):
  • Nicole Alice Sindzingre


    (EconomiX - UPN - Université Paris Nanterre - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Since the 1990s, poverty and the ways to reducing it have become a central paradigm in development economics, not only in academia but among the international financial institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund). Indeed, after WWII, thinking on development was focused on growth. A major shift occurred in the late 1990s, which has consisted in the replacement of 'growth' or 'development' as a goal of policymakers and international institutions and a central theme of research in development economics, by poverty and its reduction, together with an expansion of the meanings of the concept of poverty. The key points of the paper are that this shift represents a crucial turning point in the conceptual framework of economic thought regarding developing countries. It represents a narrowing of the agenda of governments vis-à-vis the previous one of growth and development, and the acceptance that development is no longer the priority goal of public policies, of governments and their citizens, and that the previous actions, policies and research elaborated over decades since the beginnings of development economics were in fine a failure. This shift is also an implicit substitution of difficult objectives with highly complex causal processes for concepts that can be measured and easier short-terms goals, such as lifting up specific groups of a population above a poverty line. These new objectives are also more consensual and attractive. The paper firstly presents key steps of the evolution of the thinking in development economics since WWII, then critically assesses the conceptual framework that has emerged at the end of the 20th century regarding poverty in developing countries, in particular its multidimensionality and the pre-eminence of measurement issues and quantification. It finally analyses the associated shift in policy-making as a result of reciprocal exchanges between academic research and policymakers and donors, which have helped to consolidate the new paradigm.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number halshs-00648001.

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Date of creation: 27 Nov 2008
Publication status: Published in "Poverty and Misery in the History of Economic Thought", Nov 2008, Lille, France
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00648001
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  1. Kraay, Aart & Raddatz, Claudio, 2007. "Poverty traps, aid, and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 315-347, March.
  2. Ravallion, Martin, 2005. "Inequality is bad for the poor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3677, The World Bank.
  3. Ricardo Hausmann & Lant Pritchett & Dani Rodrik, 2005. "Growth Accelerations," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 303-329, December.
  4. Sindzingre, A., 1997. "Institutions d'aide et enquêtes sur la pauvreté en Afrique," Cahiers d'Economie et de Sociologie Rurales (CESR), INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research), vol. 42.
  5. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-337, May.
  6. Shaohua Chen & Martin Ravallion, 2010. "The Developing World is Poorer than We Thought, But No Less Successful in the Fight Against Poverty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1577-1625.
  7. Theo S Eicher & Cecilia Garcia Penalosa, "undated". "Inequality and Growth," Working Papers 0083, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  8. Alice Nicole Sindzingre, 2007. "Poverty traps: a perspective from development economics," EconomiX Working Papers 2007-26, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
  9. Srinivasan, T N, 1994. "Human Development: A New Paradigm or Reinvention of the Wheel?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 238-243, May.
  10. Arbache, Jorge Saba & Page, John, 2007. "More growth or fewer collapses ? a new look at long run growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4384, The World Bank.
  11. Dasgupta, Partha, 1997. "Nutritional status, the capacity for work, and poverty traps," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 5-37, March.
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