Breaking the Cycle: What Drives Inter-Generational Poverty? A policy seminar for sector specialists, 15 May 2009.


This invitation-only event (held in the Hague) for senior Dutch policymakers, practitioners and scholars working with an interest in childhood poverty and related poverty issues discussed two key areas of concern that are currently emerging in international policy debates on poverty: How can we tackle persistent poverty, and intimately linked to this question, what can be done to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty?

Four presentations from the Young Lives team gave an overview of some of the recent Young Lives research findings, set against the context of a presentation by Franta Wijchers from the Dutch embassy in Addis Ababa about the reality of matching government and donor policy in Ethiopia. This framed a wider discussion of how research can be used by policymakers and the kind of policy changes that are needed to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Following several years of economic growth, poverty reduction and improvements in infrastructure (witnessed in all 4 Young Lives study countries), the current global economic downturn and crisis in food and fuel prices is having a direct impact on children’s lives. Young Lives research provides evidence of how fragile the gains experienced by many poor households are, and even relatively short-term shocks (such as illness or death of a family member, drought or flooding, crop failure or livestock disease) can have long-term impacts on child well-being. For example, 20% of the children in the Young Lives sample in Ethiopia had lost either one or both parents by the age of 12, with lasting effects on their schooling, confidence, and self-esteem. The presentations focused on the challenges of increasing access to education while at the same time improving quality – and the challenge of meeting parents’ and children’s hopes and aspirations surrounding their education. Children strive hard to balance their learning with other responsibilities and roles in their families and communities – and this interface is one of the sites where the struggle between tradition and modern attitudes plays itself out. The current global economic downturn means that we need to find ways of delivering quality education that is relevant to the reality of children’s lives as well as new sustainable models of education to help children escape the poverty trap.

Young Lives presentations (attached in PDF format) were:

Jo Boyden: Young Lives and the Dynamics of Child Poverty

Catherine Porter: Longitudinal Research: Benefits and Challenges

Professor Martin Woodhead: Education For All… Including Early Education for All?

Ajay Sinha: Policy Priorities and Public Finance for Children in Young Lives Countries (India)


Published 1 January 2009