This paper presents findings from 116 focus group discussions which took place in eleven districts in Bangladesh in mid-2006. It forms the first part of three hases of research in an integrated qualitative and quantitative study into poverty dynamics currently being undertaken by the author and partners from the CPRC, IFPRI and DATA Bangladesh. The central purpose of the focus group discussions was to inform subsequent phases of the research by exploring reasons perceived by participants for decline or improvement in people's well-being in their communities, and the hindrances to improvement for the chronically poor.
A secondary purpose was to explore how a set of development interventions, which had been the focus of a previous round of the panel surveys, had contributed to improvements in people's well-being. A number of causes of decline and improvement featured prominently in these discussions. Dowry, illness, and adverse dependency ratios in families were all seen as important causes of decline in a large number of groups and draw attention to the need for a better understanding of life-cycle-related pressures on poor households. Improvement tended to be related to hard work, investment and enterprise, but was also commonly accompanied by considerable risk. This risk is illustrated most strongly when common causes of improvement for some people are causes of decline for others. Improvements are generally gradual, whereas declines can be caused by the type of events which are either gradual or sudden. Various forms of business activities, improved agriculture, microfinance loans, salaried work, labour migration and sons and daughters working were all seen as important factors in improvement. These interim findings draw attention to a number of areas which warrant father investigation. They also suggest that policy interventions aimed at preventing decline and supporting improvement should take into account the changing risk profile facing poor people in Bangladesh, aim to mitigate life-cycle-related drivers of impoverishment, and help reduce the risks involved in potentially profitable, yet risky, ventures.
Discussions among the poor: Exploring poverty dynamicswith focus groups in Bangladesh, CPRC Working Paper No. 84, Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, ISBN: 1-904049-83-4, iv + 22 pp.