Category: Poverty

Crucible of Poverty

Stuart Ray, Donn Weinberg, and Anielka Munkel discuss solutions to poverty – July 17, 2014

On July 17th, the Acton Institute hosted a panel discussion titled “The Crucible of Poverty: Perspectives from the Trenches.” The discussion examined the issue of poverty, with a focus on what strategies for poverty alleviation have worked, what strategies have failed, and how we can better help the most vulnerable among us.

The panelists for the discussion were Mr. Stuart Ray, Executive Director of Guiding light Mission in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mr. Donn Weinberg, Executive Vice President of The Harry and Jeanette Wienberg Foundation; and Ms. Anielka Munkel, Project Manager here at the Acton Institute, and a co-producer of the PovertyCure DVD series.

The discussion ranged from analysis of the roots of poverty in west Michigan to questions of federal policy relating to poverty, and how foundations can ensure that grant recipients are actually pursuing the goals supported by foundations.

The full discussion is available via the audio player below.

Mincaye of the Waodani

Mincaye of the Waodani

As we continue to encounter the adverse effects of certain forms of foreign aid and other misaligned efforts to alleviate poverty, it becomes increasingly clear that those in need require a level of care, concern, and discipleship not well suited to detached top-down “solutions.”

But just as we ought to be careful about the types of solutions we create, we ought to give the same level of attentiveness to the needs themselves, which are no less complex and difficult to discern.

Steve Saint, author of End of the Spear and missionary to the Waodani people of Ecuador, offers some helpful insights and warnings along these lines, critiquing the West’s tendency to project its “standards, values and perception of need onto others,” particularly when it comes to material needs.

“When people visit the Waodani,” he explains, “they look around and think, ‘Wow, these people have nothing!’” Yet, when the Waodani encounter the lifestyles of foreign outsiders, they tend to find them unseemly and excessive. (more…)

Paul-Ryan-at-AEISocial mobility is a “key tenet of the American Dream” yet relative upward mobility has been stagnant, says Rep. Paul Ryan in his new 73-page proposal for reforming federal anti-poverty programs. Ryan acknowledges that there are many individual and social factors that affect upward mobility (e.g., family structure) but adds that “public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Expanding Opportunity in America includes recommendations for reform in reform five areas: the Earned Income Tax Credit, education, the criminal-justice system, regulation, and research on poverty policy. Listed below is a summary of Ryan’s recommendations for each of these areas:
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Recently, the World Bank agreed to partner with Nicaragua to give the country 69 million U.S. dollars in aid. This poses the immediate question of whether or not this aid will be effective in producing its stated goal of decreasing poverty and increasing economic productivity. Should the World Bank continue to give money to the government of Nicaragua, which – especially of late – has been showing a decrease in political stability and democratic processes? History shows that international loans provide little help when countries suffer from decreases in stability and equality within their system.

The World Bank justifies the money that Nicaragua receives: “Nicaragua has achieved a real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 5 percent in 2012 and 4.6 percent in 2013, returning to pre-crisis growth levels.” GDP, however, does not paint a complete picture of the country’s performance. Most of the wealth within Nicaragua is located among the upper class, making the GDP less accurate for the country as a whole. Gross Domestic Product in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2012 was estimated at $20.04 billion USD, and GDP per capita in PPP at $3,300 USD, making Nicaragua the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
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How do we help struggling Americans rise out of poverty? Robert Doar, AEI’s fellow in poverty studies and former New York City welfare commissioner, offers four key principles everyone concerned with fighting poverty should know.

As leaders of HOPE International, an organization that empowers men and women across the globe through business training, savings services, and small loans, Peter Greer and Chris Horst have witnessed the transformative impact entrepreneurship can have on individuals and communities, particularly when paired with the power of the Gospel.

In Entrepreneurship for Human Flourishing, a new book for AEI’s Values and Capitalism project, they explore this reality at length, offering compelling stories of businesspeople that illustrate the profound importance of free enterprise and entrepreneurship in equipping the poor and empowering the marginalized.

Watch the trailer for the book here:

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What are the barriers that prevent the poor from moving into the middle class? One surprising answer, says Megan McArdle, is an excess of social capital.

In the video below, McArdle explains why understanding how social and financial capital function in low-income communities can help us be more effective in helping then poor.

A woman stands next to her newly installed toilet in Agra, India.

Like half a billion women and girls in India, two teenage cousins were forced to walk away from their homes in the Indian village of Katra in Uttar Pradesh to find a private place to defecate. It was during this time that the two girls were mercilessly attacked: raped and hanged from the mango trees that line the fields of their village.

Perhaps the lives of these two young girls could have been protected through access to a toilet at home. Few of India’s villages have proper sanitation, posing critical threats for women. Because of strict traditions of modesty, women are forced to seek relief in the dark, before dawn and after dusk, leaving them vulnerable to harassment.

Social entrepreneur Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak responded to the tragedy by offering to build a toilet for every home in the village. Since founding Sulabh International in 1970, Pathak has constructed toilets for 1.3 million households, servicing 15 million users daily. (more…)

AnthazShopIndiaFreedom to practice one’s faith and be a person of faith can be instrumental in enabling the poor to achieve some modicum of social and economic freedom, says Rebecca Shah:

Religion is no panacea, but aspects of religion can activate certain practices and partnerships among its adherents that can motivate and encourage economic development. If modern economics continues to yield an understanding of human development that ignores the role of religion, governments and development institutions will persist in acting as “one-eyed giants” who “analyze, prescribe, and act as if man could live by bread alone, as if human destiny could be stripped to its material dimensions alone” (“Development Experts: The One-Eyed Giants” in World Development). According to human development theorist Denis Goulet, development is more human and fuller when people are called to “be more” rather than simply to “have more.” There can be “authentic development” only when there is a “societal openness to the deepest levels of mystery and transcendence,” and when this yearning for mystery and transcendence is recognized and satisfied.

Read more . . .

FairtradeFair trade is an organized social movement whose goal is to help producers of commodity products in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. Farmers can get their products, such as coffee or bananas, Fairtrade certification through certain standard-setting organizations. But to get such certification, they must meet various environmental, labor, and developmental standards that can be costly to implement and maintain.

The benefit for farmers is that with Fairtrade certification, they are able to sell their products at a higher price. At least is the intention—the reality seems to be quite different. A new study sponsored by the British government finds that wages on officially certified markets are below what is paid by comparable employers:

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