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Poverty and Famines Social World I Some Web Sites USDA: Food and Nutrition Service; HungerWeb:

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Presentation on theme: "Poverty and Famines Social World I Some Web Sites USDA: Food and Nutrition Service; HungerWeb:"— Presentation transcript:


2 Poverty and Famines Social World I

3 Some Web Sites USDA: Food and Nutrition Service; HungerWeb: er_Program Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research:

4 Who’s Amartya Sen? Economist, Philosopher, Scholar Origin; career Nobel Prize, Economics

5 Why Read This Book? Still useful? Research as process: new findings, conclusions, techniques modified Recent events, and confirmation of analysis

6 Further: Poverty, Famine as A concrete way to begin to talk about the social world Illustrates –issues; vocabulary; body of knowledge –way(s) of thinking

7 Specifically: Approach Involves Definition Description Measurement Analysis Public policy [prescription]

8 Some Data Numbers Location: Hunger belt? Who are the hungry?

9 Hunger in the U. S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 1995 About 4% of households experienced reduced food intake and hunger as result of financial constraints About 0.8% of households experienced severe hunger

10 Famine vs. Hunger Distinction –Hunger: sustained nutritional deprivation –Famine: acute deprivation, sharp increase in mortality Famine: –As a social problem –Some history

11 Famine deaths: hunger? Or disease? Famine and children “Missing women” issue –Where? –How many? –How do we know? Compare Female-to-Male Ratios across countries

12 Famine and the Food Supply: Malthus vs. Sen Population vs. food supply: how helpful is this comparison? –Malthus, and Essay on Population: the “race” –Sen, and famine, starvation as involving the relationship of people to food: the “entitlement approach”

13 Thinking About Famine Malthus: difficulties? –Food increasing faster than population: no famine? –Population increasing faster than food: famine?

14 Sen, and the Entitlement Approach Famine as a collapse of claims to food Key: how do we get claims to food? –Production –Trade –One’s own labor –Inheritance or transfer

15 Exchange Entitlement Definition: The set of all bundles of commodities we can acquire for what we own (see p. 3) What affects exchange entitlement: that is, what affects our ability to exert command over food? –Can we find employment?

16 –Can we sell assets? –What can we produce, sell? –What are our claims to social security? –What are our tax liabilities? –How does the price of what we have to sell compare with the price of what we buy (the price of food)?

17 Examples (from Sen) Peasant vs. landless laborer: Who owns the product? What happens when typhoon destroys half the crop? “boom famine” Increasing price of food China; and decreased starvation, though not large food production increases

18 Conclude: Useful to Focus On: Distribution issues? Clarify: –Physical distribution? Possibly –Income distribution? Yes: this distributes claims to food How food supply works through entitlement relationships How claims to food are established

19 Paraphrasing from page 8: not focus so much on what is as on who can command what...

20 Is Food Supply Irrelevant? More helpful to trace effects of changes in food supply through changes in entitlements Why? May influence –understanding of why we see famine –policy response Example: typhoon destroys half of rice crop: effects?

21 Point: impact of natural disaster depends on how society is organized, especially to care for its economically vulnerable groups

22 Poverty How does Sen proceed? –Definition –Description –Measurement, (aggregation) –Analysis (underlying analytical concepts) –Public policy

23 Definition What’s poverty, exactly? Why does it matter? Suggests ways to look for –Causes –Approaches to relief of the poor

24 Approaches to Definition Absolute deprivation: minimum subsistence definition –A biological approach Survival Ability to work effectively –Problems: translating nutritional requirements into food requirements; actually drawing the nutritional line

25 Relative deprivation: inequality definition –Rich vs. poor –Problems Poverty never goes away Income transferred from top to middle: inequality reduced, but not poverty Decrease in overall income: no change in inequality, poverty increases

26 Aggregation We want an indicator of poverty Problem: how to do this, exactly?

27 Identifying the Poor Direct method (a consumption-based definition) –Poor if consumption bundle leaves some basic needs unfulfilled –Problem: What’s the minimum acceptable bundle, in terms of specific goods?

28 Income method –Calculate minimum income necessary to meet basic needs; then identify those below that line –Catches ability to meet minimum needs –Permits us to measure the shortfall from the poverty line

29 Unit of Analysis Individual? Family? This is most typical

30 Common Measures Head Count measure –Definition: proportion of the population defined as poor –U. S., and Mollie Orshansky –Problem: Not consider income shortfall

31 Income Gap Ratio –Definition: the percentage shortfall of average income of the poor from the poverty line –Problem: not catch income distribution below poverty line –Example: income increases for some poor, decreases for others just enough to keep IGR constant; H constant, IGR constant, poverty up

32 Overall Difficulty? There are multiple dimensions to poverty Hard to catch them all in a single measure Sen’s work: illustrates an important part of thinking about the social world

33 From the General (Poverty) to the Specific (Famine) Issues requiring distinction regarding food consumption: –Low level –Decreasing trend –sudden collapse

34 Importance of distinguishing trends, movements around trends: examples –Water levels, storm vs. calm –Gross Domestic Product Regarding food: may see –Rising trend, production –Increasing size of fluctuations around trend

35 Seeming paradox: periodic famine accompanying decreasing starvation Point: Does famine affect all groups in society equally?

36 How to Command Food Legal means –Own production –Trade opportunities –Social security mechanisms

37 Command over goods depends on society’s characteristics: –Legal –Political –Economic –Social And on one’s place in society

38 Summary How useful is it to compare total food to total population in analyzing famine? How useful is the term “the poor” as a category of analysis?

39 Do market forces have a place in famine relief? –Role of increasing food prices –Where does purchasing power come from?

40 Hunger Policy Grounding: protecting entitlements to food Goal: secure –Lives –Livelihoods

41 Aid vs. development: a false choice? –Aid: getting food to the starving Direct food aid Employment subsidies; cash transfers –Development Education; capital accumulation; growth Social security system; and examples

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