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What can policymakers do to reduce poverty?

In 2015, 25% of the world’s population lived on less than US$3.10 per day. Called the “global” poor, no matter where they live they have the same purchasing power based on the minimum nutritional requirements for good health. But, how is poverty defined in absolute and relative terms? And how does being poor and feeling poor compared with your peers affect your well-being, happiness, and mental health? How are factors such as unemployment, retirement, and single parenthood associated with persistent poverty and how can vulnerable people like children, women, and the elderly be protected from it?

What can policymakers do to reduce poverty?
Increasing the minimum wage is expected to help fight poverty as part of a wider poverty reduction package, but other tools such as earned income tax credits might be better suited. But, what role do means-tested, pro-work cash assistance programs, and negative income tax schemes play in delivering income to the working poor? How can higher education protect against persistent poverty? And can the integration of productive inclusion programs into existing social assistance systems lead to substantial and long-term poverty reduction?

  • Measuring poverty within the household

    Standard poverty measures may drastically understate the problem; the collective household model can help

    A key element of anti-poverty policy is the accurate identification of poor individuals. However, measuring poverty at the individual level is difficult since consumption data are typically collected at the household level. Per capita measures based on household-level data ignore both inequality within the household and economies of scale in consumption. The collective household model offers an alternative and promising framework to estimate poverty at the individual level while accounting for both inequality within the household and economies of scale in consumption.
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  • Can cash transfers reduce child labor? Updated

    Cash transfers can reduce child labor if structured well and if they account for the reasons children work

    Furio C. Rosati, February 2022
    Cash transfers are a popular and successful means of tackling household vulnerability and promoting human capital investment. They can also reduce child labor, especially when it is a response to household vulnerability, but their efficacy is very variable. If not properly designed, cash transfers that promote children's education can increase their economic activities in order to pay the additional costs of schooling. The efficacy of cash transfers may also be reduced if the transfers enable investment in productive assets that boost the returns to child labor. The impact of cash transfers must thus be assessed as part of the whole incentive system faced by the household.
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  • The minimum wage versus the earned income tax credit for reducing poverty Updated

    Enhancing the earned income tax credit would do more to reduce poverty, at less cost, than increasing the minimum wage

    Minimum wage increases are not an effective mechanism for reducing poverty. And there is little causal evidence that they do so. Most workers who gain from minimum wage increases do not live in poor (or near-poor) families, while some who do live in poor families lose their job as a result of such increases. The earned income tax credit is an effective way to reduce poverty. It raises only the after-tax wage rates of workers in low- and moderate-income families, the tax credit increases with the number of dependent children, and evidence shows that it increases labor force participation and employment in these families.
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  • Men without work: A global well-being and ill-being comparison

    The number of prime-age males outside the labor force is increasing worldwide, with worrying results

    Carol GrahamSergio Pinto, October 2019
    The global economy is full of progress paradoxes. Improvements in technology, reducing poverty, and increasing life expectancy coexist with persistent poverty in the poorest countries and increasing inequality and unhappiness in many wealthy ones. A key driver of the latter is the decline in the status and wages of low-skilled labor, with an increasing percentage of prime-aged men (and to a lesser extent women) simply dropping out of the labor force. The trend is starkest in the US, though frustration in this same cohort is also prevalent in Europe, and it is reflected in voting patterns in both contexts.
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  • Self-employment and poverty in developing countries Updated

    The right policies can help the self-employed to boost their earnings above the poverty level and earn more for the work they do

    Gary S. Fields, March 2019
    A key way for the world’s poor to escape poverty is to earn more for their labor. Most of the world’s poor people are self-employed, but because there are few opportunities in most developing countries for them to earn enough to escape poverty, they are working hard but working poor. Two key policy planks in the fight against poverty should be: raising the returns to self-employment and creating more opportunities to move from self-employment into higher paying wage employment.
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  • Does increasing the minimum wage reduce poverty in developing countries? Updated

    Whether raising minimum wages reduces—or increases—poverty depends on the characteristics of the labor market

    T. H. Gindling, November 2018
    Raising the minimum wage in developing countries could increase or decrease poverty, depending on labor market characteristics. Minimum wages target formal sector workers—a minority in most developing countries—many of whom do not live in poor households. Whether raising minimum wages reduces poverty depends not only on whether formal sector workers lose jobs as a result, but also on whether low-wage workers live in poor households, how widely minimum wages are enforced, how minimum wages affect informal workers, and whether social safety nets are in place.
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