Ensuring Escapes from Poverty are Sustained in Uganda

  • Date Posted: May 5, 2016
  • Authors: Lucy Scott, Vidya Diwakar, Moses Okech
  • Organizations/Projects: Overseas Development Institute
  • Document Types: Evidence or Research, Case Study or Vignette, Evidence or Research
  • Donor Type: Non-US Government Agency

Since the early 1990s, Uganda has experienced substantial reductions in poverty. Using the national poverty line, the poverty headcount has declined from 56 percent in 1992/3 to just over 20 percent in 2012/13. Economic growth, the end of conflict, and sound macroeconomic management have all contributed strongly to this success. However, as people have moved out of poverty, the number of people living at a level less than twice the poverty line has risen. In 2012/2013, as many as 14.7 million people were extremely vulnerable to falling into poverty in the event of shocks or stressors, such as drought or an episode of ill-health. 

The specific focus of this report is on transitory escapes, i.e., on those households which, having successfully escaped from poverty, return to living in it once again. Analysis of the Uganda National Panel Survey (UNPS) reveals that transitory escapes are a significant phenomenon in Uganda. In particular, between 2005 and 2011, 9% of all households experienced a transitory escape from poverty. Of those households that escaped poverty between 2005 and 2009, around 40% were again living in poverty by 2011. The fact that many people escape poverty only to live at a condition just above the poverty line is a contributory factor for the high level of transitory escapes in Uganda.

This report combines analysis of UNPS data with qualitative research approaches; key informant interviews, life histories and participatory wealth ranking to investigate further the drivers of transitory poverty escapes. Specifically, it examines why some households are able to escape poverty and remain out of it that is, they experience sustained escapes from poverty while others escape poverty only to return to living in it again in the future. The report investigates the resources (land, livestock, and value of assets), attributes (household composition, and education level) and activities (including jobs, and engagement in non-farm enterprises) of households which enable them to escape poverty sustainably and minimize the likelihood of transitory escapes. It disaggregates these findings by sex of the household head, arguing that different factors are associated with transitory escapes for female-headed households than for their male counterparts.

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.