Ensuring Escapes from Poverty are Sustained in Rural Bangladesh

  • Date Posted: August 11, 2016
  • Authors: Lucy Scott, Vidya Diwakar
  • Organizations/Projects: Overseas Development Institute
  • Document Types: Evidence or Research, Case Study or Vignette, Technical Report
  • Donor Type: Non-US Government Agency

Bangladesh has experienced substantial reductions in both extreme poverty and poverty. The proportion of the population living below the national extreme poverty line has reduced from 50 percent in 1991 to 18 percent in 2010 while the poverty headcount ratio, using the national poverty line, has reduced from 60 percent to 32 percent over the same period. Economic growth, increased non-farm employment (particularly in the ready-made garment industry), international migration, and investments to improve human development outcomes have all contributed strongly to this success. However, some households escape poverty only to live at a level just above the poverty line: 19 percent of the population lives out of poverty, but has a level of consumption less than 1.25 times the national poverty line. They, therefore, remain vulnerable to slipping into poverty in the event of a shock or stressor, such as an episode of ill-health or a flood.

The specific focus of this report is on “transitory poverty escapes”: a term referring to households that successfully escape from poverty only to return to living in it once again i.e. they become re-impoverished. Analysis of the Chronic Poverty and Long-Term Impact Study for this case study reveals that transitory poverty escapes are a significant phenomenon in rural Bangladesh. In particular, between 1997/2000 and 2010, 10 percent of all households experienced a transitory poverty escape. Of those households that escaped poverty between 1997/2000 and 2006, around 20 percent were again living in poverty by 2010.

This report combines analysis from three rounds of the Chronic Poverty and Long-Term Impact Study with qualitative research approaches; in particular: key informant interviews, life histories, and participatory wealth ranking to further investigate the drivers of transitory poverty escapes or of re-impoverishment.

This report is part of a suite of products produced by LEO to explore sustainable poverty escapes. A synthesis of findings from research into poverty dynamics in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Uganda is available here. Country case studies were published for Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Uganda, along with a methodological note on conducting poverty dynamics research. Additional resources include an infographic, a brief on the policy and program implications of this research, and insights from applying a multidimensional poverty lens.