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Do poverty traps exist ?

  • Kraay, Aart
  • McKenzie, David

This paper reviews the empirical evidence on the existence of poverty traps, understood as self-reinforcing mechanisms through which poor individuals or countries remain poor. Poverty traps have captured the interest of many development policy makers, because poverty traps provide a theoretically coherent explanation for persistent poverty. They also suggest that temporary policy interventions may have long-term effects on poverty. However, a review of the reduced-form empirical evidence suggests that truly stagnant incomes of the sort predicted by standard models of poverty traps are in fact quite rare. Moreover, the empirical evidence regarding several canonical mechanisms underlying models of poverty traps is mixed.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6835.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2014
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6835
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  1. Graham, Bryan S. & Jonathan Temple, 2002. "Rich Nations, Poor Nations: How much can multiple equilibria explain?," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2002 91, Royal Economic Society.
  2. Kraay, Aart & Raddatz, Claudio, 2007. "Poverty traps, aid, and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 315-347, March.
  3. McKenzie, David & Gibson, John & Stillman, Steven, 2006. "How Important Is Selection? Experimental vs. Non-Experimental Measures of the Income Gains from Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 2087, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. repec:cep:stieop:43 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther & Glennerster, Rachel & Kinnan, Cynthia, 2013. "The miracle of microfinance? Evidence from a randomized evaluation," CEPR Discussion Papers 9437, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Santos, Paulo & Barrett, Christopher B., 2011. "Persistent poverty and informal credit," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 337-347, November.
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  8. Caucutt Elizabeth M & Kumar Krishna B., 2008. "Africa: Is Aid an Answer?," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-48, December.
  9. Quah, Danny T, 1997. " Empirics for Growth and Distribution: Stratification, Polarization, and Convergence Clubs," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 27-59, March.
  10. Bandiera, Oriana & Burgess, Robin & Das, Narayan & Gulesci, Selim & Rasul, Imran & Sulaiman, Munshi, 2013. "Can Basic Entrepreneurship Transform the Economic Lives of the Poor?," IZA Discussion Papers 7386, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Acemoglu, Daron & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 1997. "Was Prometheus Unbound by Chance? Risk, Diversification, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(4), pages 709-51, August.
  12. William Easterly, 2006. "Reliving the 1950s: the big push, poverty traps, and takeoffs in economic development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 289-318, December.
  13. Robert Lucas & Sari Kerr, 2013. "Intergenerational income immobility in Finland: contrasting roles for parental earnings and family income," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 1057-1094, July.
  14. Banerjee, Abhijit & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2010. "The Shape of Temptation: Implications for the Economic Lives of the Poor," CEPR Discussion Papers 7828, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  15. Lybbert, Travis J. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Desta, Solomon & Coppock, D. Layne, 2002. "Stochastic Wealth Dynamics And Risk Management Among A Poor Population," Working Papers 14736, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  16. Subramanian, Shankar & Deaton, Angus, 1996. "The Demand for Food and Calories," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(1), pages 133-62, February.
  17. Francisca Antman & David McKenzie, 2007. "Poverty traps and nonlinear income dynamics with measurement error and individual heterogeneity," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(6), pages 1057-1083.
  18. John Strauss & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "Health, Nutrition, and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 766-817, June.
  19. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  20. Michelle Adato & Michael Carter & Julian May, 2006. "Exploring poverty traps and social exclusion in South Africa using qualitative and quantitative data," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 226-247.
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